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Vortex2's undisputed star

With about 50 vehicles, more than 100 people and 10 different portable radars, the Vortex2 team turned heads wherever it went this spring.

But there was one undisputed star on the team: the Tornado Intercept Vehicle, or TIV. Its mission - seriously - was to drive into a tornado and collect scientific data while inside.

“It strikes a chord with people,” said Don Burgess, a research scientist for the University of Oklahoma who was part of the Vortex2 team.

“There is this interest that people in general have with tornadoes,” Burgess said. “It's a realization of that strong power of the universe.“Something that can challenge that or get close to that or get inside it kind of reveals nature to them, so they find it interesting.”

The TIV looks like a modified tank, with a turret for a camera and windows so the three-person crew has expanded visibility. The crew sits in race car seats with head restraints and 6-point seatbelts. They can even put on Kevlar vests and helmets for added protection.