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Iowans Build Tornado Chase Vehicle in Their Garage

BONDURANT, Iowa -- Severe weather season is here...and a few men in Iowa men are making sure that they will be in the eye of the storm. Here's a look at the unusual weather contraption they're building.
BONDURANT, Iowa -- Three Iowa men are building a tornado intercept vehicle from scratch in a Bondurant garage. 

Severe weather season is here...and a few men in Iowa men are making sure that they will be in the eye of the storm. Here's a look at the unusual weather contraption they're building.

The idea blossomed when they saw a similar vehicle at the Iowa State Fair, and it spiraled from there.

Brennan Jontz, Dan Auel and Jeff Jackson all share a passion for storm chasing. Their reasons for building the contraption are two-fold: to keep people safe by reporting storms and to photograph them.

"Taking pictures of weather is one of the best things. You can see the structure it creates, and really the beautiful side of the storm, not just destruction," Auel said.

Jackson will finish his degree in meteorology in May. He's concerned about the safety.
"There are actual tornadoes out there that don't get picked up on radar right away, that spotters are the ones that call in first," Jackson said.

The team started with the base of a Ford commercial van, stripped it, and then built it back up. The frame is covered in steel paneling, and they have yet to add 3/4 inch plexiglass windows and hydraulics. It's not finished, but it already weighs three and a half tons.

The men said they're willing to chase storms across the country. However, they don't even want to think about gas mileage.
"It's definitely not going to be very good, I can tell you that right now," Brennan said.
The three of them have done plenty of research during the construction of the project, but Brennan said there's no way to know for sure what the vehicle can withstand.

"Like water, you dip your toe in first, and then see how it handles," Auel said.

They have funded the entire project by themselves so far; although, it's getting to be pretty expensive. They recently created an online Kickstarter account to help them raise $5,000. You can donate at Facebook.com/TornadoJunkies.


(Noelle Smith, KCCI for CBS Newspath)

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