U of M simulator replicates tornadic winds

7:57 PM, Nov 19, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - We're getting a better idea of just how powerful the Midwest tornadoes were this weekend.

At least one in Washington, Ill. peaked with winds at 190 miles an hour. It stayed on the ground for 46 miles, and the National Weather Service confirmed two of the twisters were rated EF-4.

So just how strong are those winds?

We can get an idea of what tornadic-strength winds feel like at the University of Minnesota. A wind tunnel at the Aerospace Engineering lab can simulate wind speeds up to 100 miles per hour. Senior Justin Spurbeck volunteered to tell us what it feels like.

At 10 mph he says "(it) feels like I'm on a speedboat right now."

At 20 mph, Spurbeck said, "Getting a little bit harder to see ... My eyes are tearing up."

When the machine reaches 30 mph his mouth was drying out, and he couldn't hear himself talk when the wind speeds reached 40 and 50 mph.

The machine was shut off at 65 mph because Spurbeck was having trouble breathing.

Those wind speeds are only comparable to the very weakest of tornadoes. About a third of the wind speeds from the Washington Illinois EF-4.

The last time an EF-4 formed in Minnesota was June 17, 2010.


There were three tornadoes that day in Wadena, Almora and Douglas. In August of that year, an EF-4 also moved into Wilkin County after forming in North Dakota.

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