Like the fictional researchers in the movie "Twister"– a group of Iowa State students is chasing storms for real this summer for a federally-funded research project. Professor Bill Gallus talks about their goals.
Gallus says it will help them better understand better how the winds in thunderstorm, tornadoes and even hurricanes impact buildings near the ground. So Gallus says they’re seeking data to see how the winds interact with the buildings.
Sending the students to chase the storms is one way they’re getting the information. He says they have a team of 10 students who’re joining a storm chaser from Colorado to try and get actual storm data from the field. They also have a tornado simulator and a wind tunnel for testing, and Gallus says they’ll use computer modeling. They hope to use the information to make sturdier buildings.
Gallus says it may help them eventually improve the design of buildings to withstand winds, and help weather officials understand how winds impact buildings. Gallus is optimistic they can find some ways to make some tornadoes less threatening. He says it’s been show from wind tunnel work that it is possible to make some small adjustments to allow houses to withstand F-2 category tornadoes.
Gallus says about 90-percent of the tornadoes are F-2 and "it seems like someday it would be really nice if people didn’t have to rush for shelter for every single tornado event." Gallus says recent severe weather outbreaks are an example of the need for buildings with better staying power in storms.
Gallus says the event in Greensburg, Kansas where the entire city was destroyed by a tornado, shows that "it can be very helpful if we had ways to build our buildings a little bit better." The project is receiving one million dollars in federal funding.