Tornado Alley


Tornado Alley

Now Showing on Select Dates - General Audience

Join Storm Chasers star Sean Casey and the researchers of VORTEX 2, the most ambitious effort ever made to understand the origins and evolution of tornadoes, on this heart-pounding science adventure. Armed with a 70mm camera, a fleet of customized vehicles designed to withstand gale force winds, torrential rains and unrelenting hail, and an arsenal of the most advanced weather measurement instruments ever created, the stars of Tornado Alley take audiences on a thrilling quest to experience a tornado’s destructive power at point blank range. Experience the adrenaline and the science of nature’s most dramatic phenomena!

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This past weekend saw a whirlwind of events to commemorate the giant screen film premiere of Tornado Alley!

Featured guests Dr. Karen Kosiba (a scientist featured in the film) and meteorologists of the WFTV Severe Weather Center 9 team including Brian Shields, Eboni Deon and Brian Monahan held question-and-answer sessions and weather panel presentations. They also introduced the film in the Dr. Phillips CineDome and Eboni Deon spent time with guests in the WFTV Severe Weather Center 9 exhibit.

Get twisted up in these photos and if you haven’t yet, visit the Orlando Science Center and see Tornado Alley for yourself!

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Dr. Karen Kosiba, senior research meteorologist for the Center for Severe Weather Research, will be appearing at the Orlando Science Center during the weekend of March 24-25 for the premiere of the giant screen film Tornado Alley. Dr. Kosiba is featured in the movie and will be at the Science Center to participate in panels and presentations.


Enjoy this interview with Dr. Kosiba and have the opportunity to meet her at the Science Center March 24-25. And get caught up in Tornado Alley, premiering this weekend in the Dr. Phillips CineDome!

You are the VORTEX2 scientist responsible for coordinating the placement of the tornado pods – the heavy-based instruments that measure wind velocity and need to be placed right in a tornado’s path. Your efforts helped secure the exceptionally good data catch that was featured at the end of Tornado Alley. Would you say that deployment has been your most successful?

Yeah, considering most of them have been terribly unsuccessful. [LAUGHS] What I mean is that it’s actually remarkably hard to get something hit by a tornado. It really is. Especially something that you can’t keep moving. Something like the TIV has an advantage because it can keep adjusting. And I think if you watch the footage of the TIV, you’ll see that they sometimes adjust a little bit at the last minute. With the pods, you need to get them deployed and then leave. During the intercept you’re talking about, we did a pretty good job getting them in place. But the tornado changed paths right as it was coming towards the road. It moved a little bit to the north of the pods and then a little bit to the south. And by a little bit, I mean a real little bit, like fifty meters or so. We still got good data right around the tornado’s core, but the actual passage of the tornado? It looked so nice at first. It was so linear. And then all of a sudden it made this sharp right turn as it came towards the road. And at a certain point, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can only move the pods back and forth for so long.

Was coordinating the pod drops your main responsibility during VORTEX2?

Yeah, that definitely was my main responsibility. In addition to that, I operated the radar, so I was also making sure I was getting radar data. There are two of us in the radar truck, Josh and me, and our goal is to get the radar up and running and collecting data. Once that’s set, the radar doesn’t need too much babysitting. And then I can start focusing on the pod teams and getting them in the right place and the right position. I’m always hoping there will never be a terrible overlap. It’s a great exercise in multi-tasking.


And how did you get involved with the movie?

I’ve been working with Josh Wurman at the Center for Severe Weather Research since 2004. I started doing volunteer stuff out in the field while I was getting my Ph.D. And Josh and Sean Casey have worked together for years. They did another IMAX film together before this one. So I started working with Josh and, through him, I started working with Sean. Just helping with weather instruments, tracking stuff, you name it.

Was it distracting trying to do your work with the IMAX crews there?

You know, that’s something you start to get used to. There’s always been a film crew out there with us from the time I started doing this. We’ve had the Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers and National Geographic and other kinds of media, too. And I’m more than happy, honestly, to have them out there. All the different forms and flavors. People from different countries. The funny thing about the IMAX crew is you know their film is really, really expensive. Their shots tend to be shorter, like five or six seconds, so when they keep rolling you’re like, uh-oh, this is a real expensive shot coming up right now. It’s very different from the news crews or documentary crews who use digital cameras.

Do you eventually hope to make discoveries that will help lengthen tornado warning times?

That really has to do with identifying stuff we haven’t identified yet, which sounds very vague, I know. It’s like we need to learn more about the science, and once we learn a little bit more about that, we can apply it to forecasting warning signs. But that is still very far down the road, compared to gaining what new knowledge we can get now.

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The premier of Tornado Alley promises to be an action-packed day!  We'll have our partners from WFTV on hand, as well as Dr. Karen Kosiba from the film.  The complete schedule can be found below:

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Members only premiere of Tornado Alley

11:15 – 11:30 a.m. Q&A session with Brian Shields, WFTV meteorologist and Dr. Karen Kosiba (appearing in the film), Senior Research Meteorologist, Center for Severe Weather Research

12 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. Public showing of Tornado Alley

12:45 – 1:15 p.m. Q&A session following the film with Dr. Kosiba

1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. Presentation in Darden Theater at 1:30 p.m. with Dr. Kosiba on severe weather

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. Second public showing of Tornado Alley

3:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Q&A session with Dr. Kosiba

In addition, WFTV meteorologists will be on hand in the WFTV Severe Weather Center 9 exhibit to meet guests and answer questions.  Our own program team will be conducting weather-related demonstrations throughout the day for the whole family to enjoy!

All activities, including the film, are included with membership or a general admission ticket!

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According to Dr. Forbes at, Florida is ranked number the one top tornado state. His ranking is based on the states with the highest rate of tornadoes per square mile. The sunshine state has on average 12.3 twisters per 10,000 miles every year. Other states on the list include Kansas, Maryland, Illinois and Mississippi.

What brings Florida to the top of the list?

“Several things contribute to there being a lot of tornadoes in Florida; it’s surrounded by water so they can get tornadoes any month.  Also, Florida is the thunderstorm capital of the United States. It has the most thunderstorms per square mile and some of those storms produce tornadoes,” says Dr. Forbes

Due to Florida’s tendency for hurricanes, tornadoes are formed as they begin to move inland after making initial landfall. With the added threat of the tornadoes during hurricane season Florida is virtually prone to twisters all year round. Tornadoes are a risk close to nine months of the year in Florida because of the combination of tornado season, March to May, and hurricane season, June until the end of November.

What cities are at the top of the list?

Dr. Forbes also ranked the cities with the highest tornado densities. With an average of 7.1 tornadoes per every 1,000 square miles, Clearwater is the top tornado city in the United States. Tampa- St. Petersburg and Melbourne are also ranked among the top 10. Three of the top ten tornado cities in the country are within 100 miles of Orlando! Be sure to have a home emergency supply kit. Some supplies to include in your kit are food, water, batteries, medications, flashlights, glows sticks and a radio.

To learn more about tornadoes and the ability to predict them, don't miss Tornado Alley, premiering March 24 in the Dr. Phillips CineDome.



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Dr. Karen Kosiba, Senior Research Meteorologist, Center for Severe Weather Research, will be at the Science Center on March 24 and March 25 to introduce Tornado Alley and answer questions from guests.  Dr. Kosiba, one of the film's stars, earned her in 2009 from Purdue University. Her dissertation is entitled: A Comparison of Radar Observations to Real Data Simulations of Axisymmetric Tornadoes. Additionally, she earned a M.A.T. from Miami University and holds an Ohio teaching license in Physics and Earth Science.

Dr. Kosiba is currently an atmospheric scientist at the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colorado. Her research mainly focuses on characterizing the low-level wind structure in tornadoes and in hurricanes. This is accomplished through the use of mobile radar observations and numerical modeling.

Here's a video where she discusses some of her work:


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