Episode 149: Storm Chasing Myths

Air Date: October 13, 2010

In this episode Adam and Jamie teamed up with Sean Casey and Reed Timmer (from the series Storm Chasers) to investigate myths related to tornadoes.

The Storm Chasers’ specially reinforced vehicles can withstand an F5 tornado with winds up to 250 mph (400 km/h).


Adam and Jamie went to an airfield in Michigan and used the jet engines of a Boeing 747 to generate the needed wind speeds for this test. The test vehicles were positioned directly behind one engine’s exhaust.

In the first test, wind speeds of 160 mph were used. A normal passenger car had its hood torn off and it was pushed back 50 feet. The Storm Chasers’ vehicles suffered no significant damage.

In the second test, the full 250 mph wind was used. The normal car again lost its hood and was thrown back 250 feet. One of the Storm Chasers’ vehicles, Dominator, was turned sideways and slid across the ground but did not lift or tumble. The other vehicle, TIV2, suffered from bent anchor spikes but it did not move at all.

Noting than an occupant in either vehicle would easily have survived, Adam and Jamie declared the myth confirmed.

It is possible to build a personal, portable tornado protection shelter.


Adam and Jamie wanted to build a device that could protect a person from an F3 tornado with wind speeds up to 180 mph (290 km/h). The shelter had to meet three criteria: protection from blowing away, protection from flying debris, and the ability to tolerate changing wind direction.

After some small scale tests, a low-profile shelter was built using aluminum and ballistic nylon. It featured an anchored, pivoting base and could be collapsed and carried as a backpack. To test the shelter’s debris protection, Jamie fired wooden cylinders at it with a pneumatic cannon. The wood was deflected and caused no significant damage to the shelter or the person within. Tests began with 135 mph winds; the shelter failed due to delamination of the seams. Jamie worked to improve the design and then was able to hold his ground in 180 mph winds.


  1. Tiexandrea says:

    Good luck on surviving with that shield when a house falls on you. ^_^

  2. Jordan says:

    I’m still wishing they’d tested their personal tornado shield under F5 winds.

  3. Audfyre says:

    Why are Kari, Grant and Tory not in this episode?

  4. Byth Musters says:

    It’s probably the best vehicle available out there in the storm of that nature but considering other flying objects would be present in the tornado, I hope the chasers are safe. I am never convinced by Mythbusters analysis as they do not include every parameter that is involved in busting or confirming a myth. Nature surprises us beyond imagination. It does not hurt tone safe. Go Storm Chasers.

    • Joe says:

      The storm shield was supposed to be an emergency utility to be used when you’re caught in the open with no better place in reach. The requirement that it should protect against everything which gets blown around in a tornado makes no sense. since you still need to be able to carry it. A bunker with thick walls of reinforced concrete and a solid foundation doesn’t fit in a backpack.

      Just like body armour can’t stop every type of bullet but is still pretty useful in a firefight.

  5. Will says:

    This was easily the worst Mythbusters episodes I’ve ever seen. Why?

    1. It was basically an hour-long promo for another show.

    2. Testing the vehicles was done with wind coming from the front, on even ground. Try replicating the same tests with the wind hitting the vehicles from the side or rear. Also, try seeing what happens to the sliding vehicle if it accidentally gets hung up on a rock or uneven ground.

    3. The personal tornado shield was ridiculous. First, Adam as the “control” was tested standing up, where the shield was tested lying down. Second, they completely ignored the part about the shield reacting to shifting winds (the fin was completely removed in the modified second test, and the pivot was never tested). God help Jamie if the wind got him from behind and entered the bag. Third, only blunt debris shot from straight on was tested. Try something a little sharper or from different angles, and if you do, don’t be reckless and subject yourselves to the test. That’s what Buster is for.

    All in all this was an atrocious episode. Truthfully, it was the only episode in years of watching the show that I didn’t enjoy on any level whatsoever.

    • Confused.individual says:

      Yeah, but you better get use to it… i mean putting Obama on a show, having an episode coming up dedicated to the green hornet(and i’m sure it will be more about the GH trailers then the myths). May as well just make MB a talk show with some Bill Nye science thrown in.

      However, in their defense… Thats one expensive vehicle it’s not like they couldn’t have done things(like threw 4×4’s at it) but realistically they wouldn’t do anything to it they already knew would hurt it. I mean, it wouldn’t have been that hard to throw another angled plate on the other side to direct flow from other directions… Overall it was an interesting episode, but they should have done it as a storm chasers episode with the MB’s being guests.

  6. wilis richard head iii says:

    wow will, what shows have you made?

    • Confused.individual says:

      Anyone can make a PBS quality show…. but i think will’s more annoyed that they sold out like most networks are by putting on “filler” episodes just to kill time. The show is already obviously failing…they are on their last leg. This thou wont help rejuvenate things

  7. TOM says:

    You need to film in Michigan in the summertime so that the rest of the country can get a balanced picture of my state, but thank you for featuring Willow Run airport; a personal favorite.

  8. Stephanie says:

    I think this basically just confirmed the NWS safety recommendations for what to do in a tornado if you’re out in the open: find a ditch or low-lying area, lay down, and cover your head.

  9. Ken Wilke says:

    As an Oklahoma native, I can tell you that tornados don’t blow straight winds at objects that are “aimed” at an aerodynamic “into the wind” orientation. The winds buffet and rotate, so that any object remaining fixed faces the full force of the wind in every possible direction… while being pounded by small projectile debris as well as large, very heavy objects like cars, houses, cows, bricks, etc… there is NO WAY the shield would work. It survived 180 mile per hour winds. I think the NASCAR folks have had this figured out for quite some time. The reason the storm chasing vehicles are prepped like they are is so that they can sustain winds from variable directions.

    THIS MYTH NEEDS MORE ATTENTION. Put Jamie in his shield and rotate him on a “lazy susan” while taking 180 mph winds, with small and large objects injected during the process. Good luck Jamie!

  10. Ken Wilke says:

    Oh, it also doesn’t take a genius to know that your best bet is to get in a whole or depression in the ground, like a ditch… Thank you Gary England!

  11. Amy says:

    The myth needs no more attention. This was just a test to see if the vehicles could stand the wind…and they can. Anyone who knows anything about the storm chasers and the TIV (and TIV2) would already know that they can. TIV has been in storms since 2003 or so. It just survived an F4 hurricane (175mph winds).

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