TOTO painted white TOTO painted orange

TOTO felled on 29 Apr 85

The TOTO Home Page

TOTO (TOtable Tornado Observatory) was a white metal barrel (painted orange in its last few years of service), weighing from 250-350 pounds. The acronym TOTO was, of course, adapted from the name of Dorothy's dog from The Wizard of Oz. TOTO was outfitted with a variety of weather instruments -- anemometers, pressure sensors and humidity sensors. To deploy TOTO, two men could unstrap its mooring cables and roll it out of the back of a customized pickup truck in about 30 seconds, using metal wheel ramps and the wheels visible on the front portion in each picture at left. TOTO would then be tipped into a vertical position and swiveled so that a certain side faced north (for accurate wind direction readings). Finding a suitable spot to place TOTO -- in the "heat of battle" with a potential tornado bearing down -- was no easy task. The TOTO crew had to quickly find a relatively level and firm surface, off the road, away from wind obstructions and potential debris generators (such as buildings and trees). With each deployment, there was also a heightened lightning strike risk from handling a large metal object in an open area.

The closest TOTO deployment to a tornado was on 29 April 1984 near Ardmore OK, by Steve Smith and Lou Wicker of NSSL. But it turned out that TOTO had a center of gravity which was too high for extreme wind, and fell down (photo, bottom left) as it was sideswiped by the edge of a weak tornado. [A video clip of that 1984 deployment is online in RealPlayer format.] TOTO was also deployed as a portable weather station to measure thunderstorm gust fronts and non-tornadic mesocyclones -- with more success than its tornado mission. TOTO was retired after 1987 because of safety issues and the logistical difficulty of getting such a large, heavy, cumbersome object in front of a tornado. It is on display in the ground floor atrium of the National Weather Center, Norman OK.