Staff and Wire Reports

NORMAN, Oklahoma - An $11.9 million project touted as the largest attempt to study tornadoes ever is set to begin.

"All the resources we have here, they're trying to collect data on super cell thunderstorms to try and figure out how tornadoes form," said Owen Shieh, student of the University of Oklahoma's School of Meteorology.

The initial phase of the Verification of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2 - also called Vortex2 - will start Sunday and run through June 13. Researchers and scientists gathered Friday at the National Weather Center in Norman to discuss the project.

"There are many different theories on why tornadoes form," Shieh said. "None of them work all the time, so we're trying to figure out what's the missing link."

Researchers hope to sample supercell thunderstorms in an effort to learn more about how tornadoes form and the damage that they can cause. They say the goal is to eventually improve lead times on tornado warnings to the public.

"Our ultimate goal is to save lives," Shieh said.

The Weather Channel will document the entire 5-week chase that could forever change the way scientists look at Oklahoma's wicked weather.

More than 120 scientists and crew members will follow storms in an area that includes parts of Oklahoma, South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas.