By Shawn Chitnis


GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – A storm chaser who has spent more than a decade following severe weather has brought a unique tool to Colorado so he can travel toward tornadoes. The Tornado Intercept Vehicle was first used in an IMAX film on the topic and will be used once again this spring for the same purpose.

Ryan Shepard, owner of the Tornado Intercept Vehicle

Ryan Shepard, owner of the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (credit: CBS)

“I got pulled over quite a few times, probably in every state along the way,” said Ryan Shepard, describing his road trip back home to Greeley after recently making the purchase. “They’re just mostly curious what it’s used for.”

Shepard purchased the TIV from filmmaker Sean Casey, who used the vehicle more than a decade ago. It was built in 2007 for the film Tornado Alley and Shepard first saw the TIV while working as a production assistant on the project. Casey listed the vehicle for sale and Shepard purchased it an hour later. He moved it from Illinois to Colorado in two days.

“A lot of people say it looks like a Mad Max type of vehicle, it’s just something crazy,” he said.

Tornado Intercept Vehicle

(credit: CBS)

This is the second model of the vehicle. The version Shepard now owns is built out of the frame of a Dodge Ram 3500 truck. It is a 14,000 pound armored vehicle that has a 90 gallon tank and can travel 800 miles without a refill. It is designed to go through tornadoes — it was tested in 25 mph winds from a jet engine as well as 175 mph winds from an actual tornado, according to Shepard.

“I’ve been storm chasing for 14 years, I started in college with friends of mine who were meteorologists,” Shepard said. “They took me along with them storm chasing and I got hooked.”

He was studying to be a pilot at the time but found his passion for the weather thanks to the experience he had while on the road. It is still a love of his all these years later, and he’s made it a profession. He offers tours for people who want to get close to storms each year.

“It just blew my mind that the atmosphere could do something like that,” Shepard said. “Every storm is a new discovery, it’s something that nobody has seen before.”

He was not the only one vying for the vehicle. Shepard says there was interest from Hollywood to use it for filmmaking but Casey preferred seeing it sold to a storm chaser.

Shepard had only used his personal vehicles to get close to tornadoes before this purchase and had never actually traveled inside the TIV until making the big purchase. There are some mechanical issues that need to be addressed before he can take it out into the elements, but Shepard is excited to get closer to a storm than he ever has before.

“There are a lot of fans behind this type of concept of being able to drive close to tornadoes,” Shepard said. “I was very lucky to get my hands on this vehicle.”

The vehicle not only features eight layers in the walls that are two inches thick, the windows use bulletproof glass, and there are 10 special tires that the body sits on. Spikes can be pushed into the ground to help the TIV stay planted in one location and the armor around the vehicle can be moved with hydraulics to cover the bottom completely. (This keeps the wind from coming under and pushing the TIV upwards.)

“They all behave differently, they’re almost like a living thing,” he said. “It’s an adventure.”

Shawn Chitnis

Comments (15)
  1. fingerfish says:

    it really attracts the ladies on a Saturday night

  2. Rod Hackenflasch says:

    Apparently this guy’s never seen the videos of tornados picking up 18 wheelers and throwing them. Looking forward to seeing them dashcam vid when it’s pulled from this wreckage.

    1. Michael Davidson says:

      It is apparent you are not familiar with these vehicles (Dominator included). These cars have taken multiple direct hits from Tornadoes successfully. If you would have read and understood the article, you would have taken note of the mechanisms in-place to stop air flow under the frame as well as the spikes that plant the vehicle. This is in NO WAY like an 18-wheeler, which of course has a large amount of surface to blow against AND and huge amount of open air under the trailer.

  3. DANNO says:

    Deathtrap.

  4. bkraul says:

    “One-of-a-kind”…Mexican narcos have been building these for years.

  5. TornadoFan says:

    Anyone doubting the TIV2 simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Look it up on YouTube to see it in action. It was featured for many seasons on Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” show. It’s battle-tested and proven. Great purchase by this guy — hope he puts it to good use and can outfit it with more sensors to capture data when he intercepts funnels.

  6. Mark Logan says:

    25 MPH jet exhaust ?? I think not. 250 mph yes.

  7. Dorthy Which says:

    The low pressure from a tornado will lift that easily. Much easier than a school bus. I’ve seen school buses tossed two blocks or more.

    1. warstuf says:

      A school buses surface area and CofG makes it far more subject to “lift”. Make it heavy, low, small and keep the wind from the belly area, no lift generated. Not going anywhere.

      1. Yirmin says:

        It may very well be designed such that it can’t be picked up like a school bus. But what is going to happen to it when it starts getting pelted with concrete blocks and brick that the tornado is throwing around at over 200mph. It can probably survive a few hits but imagine it gets hit with hundreds of blocks which is entirely possible if he is dumb enough to get into a large F4 or F5. I’ve seen entire neighborhoods completely wiped from the face of the planet and that means that every block and brink in those houses was turned into a projectile.

    2. TornadoFan says:

      Incorrect, this thing is as close to tornado-proof as you can get. The TIV2 and it’s driver, Sean Casey, were prominently featured for years on Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” show. The TIV2 was battered with wind, hail, debris, everything you could throw at it. And Sean eventually got the shot he was after by driving the TIV2 into the funnel of a tornado. That, too, was featured on “Storm Chasers”, although the actual footage he got was (wisely) saved for his “Tornado Alley” IMAX film.

  8. Jeff Vance says:

    One of a kind Drudge? Looks like all the rest to me…

  9. John Gardner says:

    Hope he has a chaser vehicle so we can see video of the day a tornado picks up him and his truck and tosses a mile or so off the road …

    1. luismartinez1953 says:

      LOL!!!

  10. PartyPoopa says:

    Wait until his school-shooter of a son gets a hold of it and decides to commit a road rampage.

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