We all remember the point of the movie “Twister,” right? It wasn’t just about corny lines, amazing CG and cows flying through massive tornadoes — it was about science. Jo Harding and her team designed and built several science-labs-in-a-tin-can with the goal of hurling them into storms.
For a “Twister” fan, owning Dorothy would be pretty cool. But you would also kind of own a little slice of atmospheric science history. The prop was modeled after an actual instrument developed back in the 1980s by the National Severe Storms Laboratory. It was called the “Totable Tornado Observatory,” or TOTO. (Meteorologists are really good at punny acronyms.)
Scientists at NSSL and the University of Oklahoma had the exact same goal as Jo and Bill: 1. Heave TOTO off the back of a truck in the path of a tornado. 2. Wait for the tornado to roll over TOTO. 3. Swim in data.
But, just like Jo and Bill learned throughout “Twister,” getting an instrument inside a tornado is really difficult. TOTO never had a direct hit. The closest it ever came to a successful mission was in 1984 when it got sideswiped and knocked over (sound familiar?) by a weak tornado, says NOAA.
Dorothy is currently owned by Profiles in History, a company that claims to be the “leading dealer” in guaranteed-authentic stuff. Later this week they’re auctioning the jacket Prince wore in the motorcycle scene of “Purple Rain,” so I guess we can believe the claim. The auctioning of Dorothy will start at 2 p.m. Friday, July 1.
“Measuring approx. 4 ft. square and constructed of metal, resin, PVC pipe, and repurposed weather vanes, cameras, and equipment,” the eBay listing reads. “With caution-yellow cage and an image of ‘Dorothy Gale’ from The Wizard of Oz affixed to the principle canister. Also stenciled with ‘IV Dorothy.’ In production used very good condition. Accompanied by an original Warner Bros. Studios Certificate of Authenticity.”