On Wisconsin: Wooden bullet helps researchers make affordable shelters : Wsj

Those of us in “tornado alley” appreciate any opportunities to have tornado safe shelters…

The Reclamation Administration

Safe room testing

Bob Falk, a research engineer at Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, stands near an air cannon that fires 2-by-4s at 100 miles per hour into a wall designed for a tornado safe room. The walls of the room are made of interlocking pieces of lumber, making the rooms more affordable.

That’s why Falk and his team of engineers have been using an air cannon to fire, at 100 mph, 12-foot long, 15-pound southern pine 2-by-4s into specially designed walls made of some of the cheapest wood available.

The cannon mimics the forces of an F5 tornado with 250-mph winds. The lumber used to make the walls of the shelter is of such low quality, Falk had to specially order it because he couldn’t find it at area lumber yards or hardware stores.

“This is quite a resilient design,” Falk said after a test shot. “All we’re trying to do is…

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