Iowa State University students this month are re-enacting the hit movie “Twister,” pursuing tornadoes to study their deadly force. Professor Bill Gallus wants to get to the bottom of the matter. He wants to measure the pressure and winds inside the tornado right down where it touches the ground, which Gallus calls “Kind of a no-man’s land where there’s almost no information.” He’ll coordinate a band of students who’ll go out with an experienced tornado-chaser who develops his own instruments to put in the path of a storm.
National Geographic’s funding some of this research, and Gallus acknowledges a resemblance to the movie. He says when he saw the movie about ten years ago he thought it was stupid, because no meteorologist cared at the time about what happened inside a tornado — they were concerned with the weather outside twisters. Now he’s talked with aerospace wind engineers who very much want to know what’s going on inside it.
He says the movie was ahead of its time, though this project is different in many ways. The project’s to find out information that will let homebuilders create houses that can withstand the winds of a tornado. The project was supposed to be underway already, but the professor says Mother Nature isn’t cooperating. Most of the country’s cool and dry right now, although May and June planned as the time this study will be done.
Gallus says the I-S-U team’s scheduled to join up with a group from Denver to work on this project, and the first team right now is scheduled to head to Colorado this Sunday, if it looks like there’s going to be “some active weather” next week. He says the students doing tornado research this spring won’t exactly in the path of every twister, but will deploy their sensors from a short distance away, at least in theory.