An up-close look at the damaging effects wind can have

Last month, the south experienced one of the most horrific tornado outbreaks in history.

EF-5 tornados killed hundreds of people and destroyed thousands of homes.

We visited Bloomington, Illinois where State Farm Insurance has a lab to test the construction of your home against one of nature’s greatest threats, wind.

We got an up-close look at the damaging effects wind can have:

Tornadoes, high winds, both can bring us a lot of damage, not just because of their speed, but because of the debris they toss around.

John Donovan helps conduct the testing at the State Farm Technology research lab in Bloomington, Illinois.

Their goal is to make the construction of homes and the people who live in them safer.

Donovan said, “We encourage builders to improve homes, code people we try and improve the building codes."

With the use of a gun that shoots 2x4’s at a mock home, Donovan conducts tests to measure the force of debris flying in 100 mph winds.

He said, "Thirty-four, 35 mph is what we are targeting. This would be typical of wind driven debris by a hurricane or it could be a weak tornado, or straight line winds. The debris is traveling at one third the wind speed."

After setting the air pressure on the gun to 22 psi (pounds per square inch), Donovan let me take the controls.

The 2x4 shot through the air and went through two walls.

Some homes do not even have plywood where this mock home did and the 2x4 went right through the plywood and the next wall.

I asked Donovan, “You don't think about your walls not be able to stop something right."

He responded, "You think you are safe and protected behind your walls. That's why we really want people to see these things and take cover."

Take cover from debris that can pass through your home. That is why we want as many walls as possible between you and the outside.

Donovan then showed us what he calls his back stop and says it is a wall you can buy to make a special storm room in your home.

He said, "This is plywood you can see on the edge here there is a little bit of Kevlar, than the foam core, and another layer of plywood. This wall is rated to take a board twice as heavy as we just fired and at 110 miles per hour."

Remember, debris tends to travel at one-third of the wind speed. So the back stop works in 300 mph wind.

Donovan said, "We are going to aim now at the window."

The target was a typical dual pain window you probably have in your home.

In slow motion, you can see the glass fly everywhere.

“These are big pieces of plate glass that in the wind can become missiles as well, if you are in there and you have glass flying around the house everywhere being caught up in the wind," explained Donovan.

And it is not just the debris that can cause damage.

"Once that window blows out, the room becomes pressurized and you have a much greater risk of the entire house coming apart. That's when you see the great dramatic videos of roofs lifting off of houses and what not," Donovan said.

For our last test, we targeted an impact resistant window, which is required in some hurricane areas.

Donovan said, "Much more like the windshield in your car. It's two layers of glass with a plastic lamenent in between. It keeps the 2x4 from going into the room."

After the stage was set, we were ready to fire.

"Obviously, the 2x4 is an extreme hit, but think about the smaller debris, that would not get through here whether it is rocks, kids toys, a lawn chair. Everything becomes a missile and things break and shatter, whether it’s a wood product, glass product or siding product, everything becomes a missile in the air," said Donovan.

The wind can make everyday items that we find in around our own home dangerous.

Conducting these tests provided a great first-hand look at the destructive power of the wind and how just being in your home will not necessarily protect you from high winds and tornadoes.

So when we tell people to get in the basement, we mean it. Your life could depend on it.

If you do not have a basement it is suggested you build back stop walls. Some contractors would know how to build one.

On Wednesday, Just Before Six, we are going conduct some tests to see how destructive ice can be.

Follow the links below to find more information and videos on the effects of high winds and how to protect yourself:

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