FIU Wall of Wind

MIAMI, Fla. - Florida International University has a brand new research tool, and it's turning heads in Miami. The new Wall Of Wind hopes to lead the way in hurricane wind research.

Erik Salna, the Associate Director of FIU's International Hurricane Research Center, explains-- "we want to know--how do they actually affect structures--homes, businesses. Being able to create conditions in a facility like this can really improve and mitigate homes"

Hurricane Andrew was an eye opener for building codes, bringing vast improvement to structures in south Florida.

"For every one dollar that is spent on mitigation, it saves four dollars in damage and clean up," Salna points out.

On Tuesday FIU conducted a live test to see if the new codes are living up to expectations.

The 12 fans can produce winds up to 157mph, the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane. That's 3 million cubic feet of air per minute.

The winds and the anticipation start to build during the test, growing to tropical storm strength. Category one, reminding us of when Katrina passed through Florida. Category 2, is reminiscent of Frances. Cat 3, Ivan. Cat 4, Charley, and finally we surpass 157mph, category 5 strength, conjuring memories of Andrew.

During the test, a surprising discovery. The shingles on the post-Andrew roof start coming loose at about 100mph winds. They claim to resist 130mph.

And suddenly we're watching a scientific discovery first hand. This giant wind field is putting building codes and supplies to a test to see where they start to fail.

The difference between the pre Andrew roof and post Andrew roof is staggering, a clear indication that the improved building codes could make a big difference should another Cat 5 storm move through.

We've come a long way, but this Wall of Wind is already teaching wind engineers where the flaws lie and what more can be done to better protect our lives and property.

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