Intelligent Machines

Portable Hurricane

Machine will help update Florida’s building codes for storms.

Engineers at the University of Florida, Gainesville, have built a machine that can crank out Hurricane Katrina-like conditions to test the sturdiness of structures and materials. The trailer-mounted apparatus sports eight five-foot fans powered by four 700-horsepower marine engines. A duct and rudders allow precise control of wind speed and direction; a water-injection system simulates wind-driven rain. Forrest Masters, a civil engineer at the university and a leader of the hurricane­-simulator project, plans to use the machine to blast state-donated homes, building products, and trees. The data will be used to help Florida update its statewide building codes.

Big fan: Eight five-foot fans plus water injectors can precisely mimic hurricane conditions.

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