Travel with the "stormchasers" as they view the awesome power of tornadoes sweeping across the land and seek to understand how they are created.
This PBS documentary tells the true story of storm chasers, the men and women who risk their lives to record the power of dangerous tornadoes at close range (dramatized in the 1996 blockbuster Twister
). Here, though, the special effects are real. Dedicated scientists from the National Severe Storms Laboratory, located in the heart of "Tornado Alley," drive into areas where storms are forecast to place their Totable Tornado Observatory (with the apt acronym TOTO) directly in the path of the most dangerous twisters. The program explains, in lucid and fascinating detail, how tornadoes develop, as well as the steps being taken to predict them with greater accuracy and thereby save lives. (Doppler radar technology was just coming into use in 1985, when this documentary was made; hopes were high for this innovation.) The film then focuses on the people of tiny Barneveld, Wisconsin, a town leveled by a devastating tornado in 1984. In the words of one Barneveld citizen, her "sense of well-being was thrown away, literally." The film's genuine storm footage is spectacular; its real human stories are both chilling and tragic. --Laura Mirsky