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Arts and Entertainment

TV Junkie Interview: Reed Timmer from 'Storm Chasers'

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Reed Timmer stand in front of The Dominator tornado tank. The season finale of "Storm Chasers" airs tonight at 10pm on Discovery

Reed Timmer stand in front of The Dominator tornado tank. The season finale of "Storm Chasers" airs tonight at 10pm on Discovery
The Discovery Channel is wrapping up it's fourth season of "Storm Chasers" at 10pm tonight and while there is no official word yet on whether the show is coming back or not next year, we would find it hard to believe that the network would drop one of its most exciting series. These guys are, after all, chasing down tornadoes and driving into them - just the concept blows "Auction Kings" away.

We spoke with professional storm chaser team leader, and meteorology PhD Reed Timmer, about this season of "Storm Chasers" and where he'd like the show to go. Sure, these guys are adrenaline-fueled but this is a reality show that is based on science. Producers can't script a tornado or manipulate how they might damage a town in rural Oklahoma.

Thomas Attila Lewis: Congrats on the success of this season, so many things have happened. Does it feel like ancient history since these were shot in the first half of the year?

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Reed Timmer: It seems like a long time ago but it also seems like just yesterday to be honest. The last tornado I saw was on June 19th but I went storm chasing a week ago in Oklahoma, not for the show, but we storm chase year-round. Last year we went to Argentina because our winter is their spring and summer down there, saw some supercells spinning in the opposite direction which was really interesting. But it seems like just yesterday we were storm chasing and here we are in the middle of winter. In just a few months we will be out there again.

Thomas Attila Lewis: Because of climate changes, aren't we getting longer hurricane seasons and more extreme weather during the year - is there some discussion of extending the season to cover this?

Reed Timmer: There has been some discussion of that, but what I want to do is storm chase worldwide. Chase cyclones in Asia, off of the coast of Australia, some of the biggest tornadoes in the world happen in Bangladesh just south of Mt. Everest. Hundreds of people die in those every year and they never make the news. South Africa gets a lot of tornadoes, there are crazy snowstorms off the coast of Japan, in the sea of Japan there.

I'd like to expand worldwide and document extremes across the planet and perform some extreme science experiments on each of them. Right now we shoot our air cannons into tornadoes and have radar on top of our tornado tank but we could design an armored boat for waterspouts and record data inside, gather data inside the walls of supercyclones in Asia. That's what I'd like to do, hopefully Discovery will make it happen.

This year too, if we had extended the season to August we would have got another 6 to 8 episodes because there were many tornadoes on the northern plains past our June 19th cut off.

Thomas Attila Lewis: You guys must gather tons of footage with all of those cameras on the trucks and your mobile cameramen, have you ever done a blooper reel?

Reed Timmer: Oh wow, we would definitely have tons of blooper material, I guarantee it, but we haven't done one of those yet. But preceding tonight's season finale there will be a "behind-the-scenes" episode to see our cameramen in action.

Our cameraman in the back seat of our car, he's amazing, he's done "Deadliest Catch", "Dirtiest Jobs", "Lobster Wars", I think he's in Afghanistan right now shooting a reality version of The Hurt Locker. We've all become really close friends because were out there every day driving miles and miles, you learn so much more than you probably want to about a person. But when they go at the end of June it's like a member of our family leaves.

Thomas Attila Lewis: Would you consider any of the weather in Los Angeles a "weather extreme"? Do we have anything that would make the show?

Reed Timmer: I think the extremes in Southern California, you have those drought conditions which can contribute to powerful Santa Ana winds which can be devastating if fire becomes involved. California also gets hammered with rain because of the El Nino - the Pineapple Express can spawn tornadoes because there is so much spin in the atmosphere. There was one in Huntington Beach that we wanted to get footage of but we couldn't get a cameraman there in time.

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Thomas Attila Lewis: Your tornado tank, The Dominator has got to guzzle some serious gas, right?

Reed Timmer: For a tornado tank it's pretty green actually, it gets about 13MPG but with the miles we drive we still go through a lot of gas tanks. This year our AC died so it was about 130 degrees in the vehicle. All the heat from the outer shell pours into the vehicle - it's this rush of hot air into the interior that just takes your breath away and we're just sweating our asses off in there.

Thomas Attila Lewis: How did that contribute to the atmosphere inside The Dominator?

Reed Timmer: It didn't help. I'm talking to you from New York City right now, and the food is so great here. We just don't have any of those options on the road. It's nothing but gas station food, really horrible stuff and tough on your stomach.

Thomas Attila Lewis: What can we look forward to next season?

Reed Timmer: We're going to have two Dominators next year - a bigger one that will be designed to go into the interior of more powerful tornadoes and then the other one will stay on the outside gathering more information and data. Ideally we will be able to create a 3D MRI of the tornado, measuring temperature and pressure on the inside and outside of the tornado. What we want to do is get into the tornado and measure updrafts because the updraft winds can be much more powerful than the winds in the outer walls of the tornado.

We want to get this data out there, we're hoping to get into the journal Nature and other journals, we'd like to see others take this data, analyze it and write their own papers. Ideally we'll see this information help build better early warning systems as well as help determine how dangerous an incoming tornado is.

The season finale of "Storm Chasers" airs at 10pm tonight on Discovery.