Storm chasers are accustomed, perhaps even addicted, to adrenalin, but a crew of them got more of it than they bargained for on Friday when they found themselves in the teeth of an especially ferocious system.
Their armoured SUV found itself squarely and unintentionally in the crosshairs of an oncoming EF-4 tornado near El Reno, Oklahoma, and was tossed head over heels for some 180 metres, with the crew filming the whole time.
The crew came away with only minor injuries and some astonishing, never before seen footage, which you can see in the chilling video below.
The team’s leader, Mike Bettes, said it felt like the vehicle tumbled over several times and was floating in the air before crashing to the ground.
“That was the scariest moment of my life,” Bettes said. “I had never been through anything like it before, and my life passed before my eyes.”
The Weather Channel said all the occupants were wearing safety belts and walked away from the banged-up vehicle.
It’s the first time one of the network’s personalities has been injured while covering violent weather, spokeswoman Shirley Powell said.
The Weather Channel has been sending crews out to hunt tornadoes for about four years now, Powell said. Last year, one of the network’s crews was among the first on the scene after a devastating twister hit Joplin, Mo., bringing back gripping video.
Powell said it is too early to tell how the close call will affect the network’s tornado coverage, but it will be under review.
“Tornadoes are violent and unpredictable, but covering them keeps the public at large informed and, as a result, safer,” she said.
With files from The Associated Press
Video: “Hold on, brothers! Everybody duck down!” Inside the tumbling TWC vehicle
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