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Building Against the Wind

Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:22 PM EDT
The devastation in Oklahoma is hard to digest.  But the power of storms to generate damaging winds is incredible and a threat to all of us.  Researchers in south carolina have been studying the damaging effects of wind, hail and rain on homes and commercial structures. They're uncovering new information they hope will help protect property and lives.
   The tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma had winds clocked at 200 miles an hour.  However, the wind doesn't have to be nearly that strong to cause catastrophic damage. The insurance institute for business and home safety in Richburg, South Carolina has a 40-million dollar test lab funded by the insurance industry.  It's the brain child of Dr,Tim Reinhold, the center's vice president and chief engineer.  He says,  "it's really a way for us to reproduce what's happening in the real world in a controlled environment so that we can understand what is really causing some of these dramatic failures that we see."
    The institute is home to a giant wind test chamber where scientists put building codes to the test.  They do that by generating hurricane force winds with giant fans like this one.. 105 all together.  The 350 horse power fans can re-create the winds of powerful storms and their effects on structures.  They built two homes and placed them side by side in the test chamber and cranked up the wind.  The home on the left came apart in 95 mile an hour winds in just 4 seconds.  It was built using typical midwestern building codes.  The home on the right was fortified to withstand minimal hurricane force winds and sustained only minor damage.  Dr. Reinhold says, "with the way that people build in the middle of the country, where you're not using metal straps like we find in hurricane prone regions, you have toe nails a lot of times holding pieces together and it comes apart as basically a house of cards.  And we see it over and over again with tornadoes."

Wind experts say not many structures are a match for EF4 or EF5 tornadoes.  But they say homes can hold up to hurricane force winds in excess of a hundred miles an hour with proper building practices like, metal straps to tie down roofs and walls, water sealed roof decks, hurricane shutters or plywood to cover windows and openings. 

Hurricane season begins June 1st.

Building Against the Wind

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