MIAMI, Fl. Sitting on 1.6 acres of land at Florida International University is a research project known as the Wall of Wind. After Hurricane Andrew, it was created in hopes to develop better building codes to withstand strong winds created by tropical systems.
The Wall of Wind is a twelve fan simulator, housed inside an 8,000 square foot building dedicated to wind engineering research. An individual fan motor weighs approximately 15,000 pounds -- heavier than a fully mature African Elephant. Each fan measures six feet in diameter.
As engineers built the wall -- they did it methodically to ensure maximum wind speeds to replicate a tropical system. They started with two fans, then went to six fans, and finally to the twelve fan setup, learning lessons along the way.
The end result is being able to replicate everything from a tropical storm and Category 1 winds up to over Category 5 wind speeds -- approximately 157mph.
Erik Salna is the Associate Director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University. He was a TV Meteorologist when Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida, and saw the destruction first hand.
He says the engineers designed the wall to recreate a real hurricane, in the real world, and place it inside the research world. That includes turbulence in the wind, caused by trees and structures, and the rain associated with these storms. The Wall of Wind is capable of adding the equivalent of 8 to 9 inches of rainfall per hour while preforming tests and research.
The ultimate goal is to create homes and buildings that residents along the United States Coast can remain in when a strong wind event threatens.
Salna mentions that everyone from Florida to Texas should prepare as if this is the year that a storm is going to come your way. But the research being conducted at the Wall of Wind is trying to make structures stronger so that residents can be in a safer environment, should another storm come their way.