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East Otter Tail, Wadena tornado footage arrives at Omnitheatre

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IMAX footage of the East Otter Tail County and Wadena tornadoes will have its Minnesota premiere when "Tornado Alley" opens at the Science Museum of Minnesota's Omnitheater in St. Paul on Friday.

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"Tornado Alley" opened in other IMAX theatres, mostly science museums, in March 2011. It was directed by Sean Casey from Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers", and Wadena and Otter Tail County tornado footage from June 17, 2010, was shown on an episode premiering in December 2010. Footage from the same day was used to make the IMAX film.

The film includes footage from a variety of storms, and there are no location subtitles to distinguish individual tornadoes, said Brandon Ivey, meteorologist on IMAX film director Sean Casey's team that moved through the Wadena area on the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV) on June 17, 2010.

However, Ivey said, people wanting to spot the local EF4 tornadoes can watch for several specific shots in the film.

The first shot, also shown in "Storm Chasers", is of the multiple vortex phase of the East Otter Tail tornado, and the only multiple vortex tornado footage in the IMAX film.

Another shot, unique to the IMAX movie, has the team fleeing from the East Otter Tail tornado in its large wedge phase.

"That large tornado comes up right behind the TIV and is ripping a lot of trees out of the ground," Ivey said.

The Wadena tornado also has footage in the IMAX film, going through town.

"That shot is pretty much the same shot highlighted in 'Storm Chasers'," Ivey said. "In the foreground, the shingles are being lifted up due to the inflow winds of that tornado."

Ivey also said there were aerial shots of the tornado damage as well as some footage shot on a regular high-definition camcorder, which shows up as a small letterbox format on an IMAX screen.

Footage from Wadena appears nine times in the film, including the introduction and mostly 26-30 minutes into the 45-minute film.

Ivey said his team chased the earlier and longer-tracked East Otter Tail tornado for about an hour, but when the Wadena tornado hit the west side of town, they dropped the chase and decided to help. The team's driver, Marcus Gutierrez, was a medic in the Navy and effective in search and rescue efforts.

Chris Bauer, co-director of public relations at the Science Museum of Minnesota, said the storm chasers' ultimate goal in capturing tornado footage is to understand how the storms form and increase warning times and public safety.

Additionally, the Science Museum offers a school field trip package, "The Big Weather Experience", which includes the film, the live theater program, "Storms on Stage", and museum weather exhibits. "The Big Weather Experience" runs from Oct. 2 to Dec. 21.

While "Tornado Alley" has shown in 3D in some other theaters, the Science Museum of Minnesota's Omnitheater does not use 3D technology.

It is an impressive experience anyway, Bauer said.

"It's a nine-story domed screen that encompasses you, and you really feel like you're there, and really riding along with the TIV vehicle," Bauer said.

At the Sept. 11 regular Wadena City Council meeting, Mayor Wayne Wolden said he was interviewed by the Star Tribune for his thoughts on the upcoming movie, but there wasn't much going on locally.

"Apparently the team from Storm Chasers is going around and promoting it in Rochester and everywhere but Wadena," Wolden said.

"Tornado Alley" is scheduled to show through June 2013. Ticket prices for the Omnitheater are $9 for adults and $8 for children.

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