Reported September 2008
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- More hurricanes strike the U.S. in September than in any other month of the year. The best-built houses are more likely to survive these severe storms. Now, there’s a new way to test how homes hold up -- and it’s just like being in the eye of the storm.
With the wind, the rain and the destruction, hurricanes can wreak havoc on buildings. That’s why civil engineers from the University of Florida built the largest portable hurricane simulator in the world. The idea was to find out what materials hold up best in a storm.
“There’s no instruction manual on how to build one of these,” Forrest Masters, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Florida, told Ivanhoe.
Eight industrial fans powered by four marine diesel engines run the system. A 5,000 gallon tank provides water and cools the engines.
The simulator can produce winds of up to 125 mph -- a strong category 3 hurricane force -- against a mock house. The entire system is portable.
“For the first time, we’re actually able to directly observe water being forced through the action of pressure forced into your house," Dr. Masters said.
Scientists often use the simulator to experiment on windows.
“We’re picking up new ideas on how to build better windows and how to do a better job for installation," Dr. Masters said.
Though Masters and his colleagues run the simulator three times a day, it never loses its thrill for them.
“Every time you hear 2,800 horsepower turn on, it’s a blast," Carlos Lopez, a graduate student at the University of Florida, told Ivanhoe.
Every day, researchers are a little closer to understanding how to create a hurricane-proof home. Soon, researchers hope to take the simulator to actual neighborhoods to test it on older homes. The simulator costs about $500 thousand to make.
The American Meteorological Society and the American Society of Civil Engineers contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
University of Florida
American Meteorological Society
The American Society of Civil Engineers
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