A runway at the Reese Technology Center was the setting for a make shift thunderstorm. Researchers at Texas Tech University were able to obtain enough information on how structures withstand gale force winds using one very high tech piece of military machinery.
Each year tornadoes rip through communities leaving death and destruction behind. Often their wind speeds can reach more than 200 miles per hour destroying everything in their path. And it's those kinds of winds that Texas Tech researchers and the Texas air national guard are simulating.
"They measured our C-130 to see if we could generate the wind speed from our propeller blast that could generate tornadic and hurricane force winds," says Major Scott Morris, with the Texas Air National Guard.
To researchers the C-130 is a perfect and powerful wind maker. It allows them to test how average homes stand up against strong winds. "This is a great idea and we can do it. There was a lot of coordination, a lot of communication and it finally came to this," says Major Morris.
The winds from the C-130 aircraft generate winds similar to a real storm. "This is more of a gale force wind which you typically find in a very strong thunderstorm downburst or from a tropical storm or hurricane," says Chad Morris with the Texas Tech Wind Engineering Center.
Researchers use the experiment to collect data. "The design of the homes causes them to perform differently in high winds. What we're looking at is collecting information that will enable both the manufactured housing industry and modular home construction to improve those and to show some of the designs that are working well," says Morris.
Lon Larson with Oliver Technologies, flew in from California to see how his new design in foundations holds up in the experiment. "They're huffing and puffing and trying to blow the house down and it's just not working. The houses are well built and the foundation is obviously handling it," says Larson.
Tech researchers were also pleased with the outcome. "We had a little shingle damage and trim around the edging but that's not structural damage and the house performed adequately well," says Morris.
Texas Tech began testing houses using a C-130 aircraft about two years ago and have been sharing their information with home builders all over the country. The bottom line in all this research is, of course, to save lives and build homes that will keep you and your family safe during severe weather.