Famous storm chasers love Alberta action

American Kevin Barton, 51, from Grand Rapids, Michigan stands beside the Dominator 3 storm chasing...

American Kevin Barton, 51, from Grand Rapids, Michigan stands beside the Dominator 3 storm chasing truck in the parking lot at the Hilton Garden Inn in west Edmonton on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Barton works with the TVN Weather crew who use the modified Ford 350 to chase storms and tornados in the United States and in Canada. TREVOR ROBB/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

Trevor Robb, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 5:50 PM ET

When it comes to chasing down tornadoes, Kevin Barton and the TVNWeather crew have a hidden weapon up their sleeves.

It comes in the shape of a modified Ford-350 pickup truck, the Dominator 3, which boasts an exterior roll-cage sheeted in 16-gauge dual faced steel. The doors are air-assisted and open vertically. They're designed to be as light as possible but equally formidable. They're lined with a light-weight aluminum shell and coated with five layers of Kevlar and one armour plate. The windows are all re-enforced with 3/8-inch polycarbonate.

In the back of the Dominator are air compressors and auxiliary batteries that help run the extra equipment and electronics in the truck. In total, there are six batteries in the vehicle, which was commissioned by a colleague who lives in Melville, Sask. (It also comes equipped with a Saskatchewan Roughriders licence plate).

As the name suggests, the vehicle is the third of its kind and subsequently the most expensive - tipping the scales at around $200,000.

"We went a little more elaborate with this one," said Barton, with a chuckle.

It's been just six years since Barton decided to trade in his life as an automotive mechanic for the hectic life of a storm chaser.

He remembers his first tornado chase vividly.

"It was both exhilarating and scary. The first chase I had we saw a tornado, which is very unheard of," said Barton. "We were cruising through this field, we stopped alongside the road and I looked over at the storm and you could see a wall cloud develop. Then all of a sudden the finger came down and it was headed straight toward us."


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