Milwaukee Journal Sentinel features FPL Storm Shelter Research


The debris launcher tests safe room wall assemblies by shooting 12-foot long 2×4 boards to re-create the 250-mph wind gusts associated with tornado activity.

“Through trial and error, and lots of splinters…” is one way to describe the storm shelter research led by FPL engineers Bob Falk and James Bridwell. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has described it just so in the feature: Shelter from the storm: Cannon blasts test wall for tornado safe room. A short video and photo gallery accompany the story.

A spate of tornadoes and other severe weather across the Central Plains have left people wondering how they can find peace of mind in areas that may see up to dozens of tornadoes annually. By testing various combinations of inexpensive layered wood pieces and fasteners, Falk and Bridwell plan to finish their experiments in 2015 and eventually produce instructions or safe room kits for DIY homeowners to install their peace of mind, piece by piece.

Falk and Bridwell do indeed work in a “large building” at FPL. The 87,000 square foot Centennial Research Facility houses three specially designed scientific spaces: Engineered Composites Sciences, Durability and Wood Protection, and Falk and Bridwell’s home away from home, the Engineering Mechanics and Remote Sensing Laboratory.