Tornado simulator putting shelters to the test

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POSTED: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 12:46pm

UPDATED: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 12:47pm

The job of cleaning up in Oklahoma is just beginning. Monday's EF5 tornado had winds topping out over 200 miles per hour.

Entire homes and neighborhoods were wiped out in minutes. Scientists are working trying better understand tornados destructive power in hopes of saving lives.

The vortex created in this room is about as close as you can get to standing in an actual tornado. But this is just smoke, dust and dirt. Imagine what this twister can do when it starts ripping pieces of wood right of out a home?"

It turns a neighborhood into a mindfield, a minor piece of wood becomes a missile. Larry Tanner helps run Texas Tech's National Wind Institute, the premier testing ground for tornado shelters.

Tanner launches the most common type of debris, a 15 pound piece of wood to see if a shelter can withstand the impact at 100 miles per hour. The wood splinters in the blink of an eye, but by slowing it down you can see the incredible force and destructive power.

We saw the projectile punch right through plywood, which is stronger than the thin siding that most homes have. Well built safe rooms can withstand flying 2x4s and larger debris, which is often heavier but slower and those shelters don't have to be buried in the backyard.

So the National Wind Institute and FEMA advise installing a safe room inside the home.

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