Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shelter In A BIG Place

Springfield tornado 6/1/11

If a tornado ever does drop in on downtown Amherst as one did with Springfield almost three years ago, it's nice to know the Mullins Center is close by -- within walking distance for many of us.  

And after today's practice run involving 350 participants (and a bevy of dogs) that will be my destination point should my house fall prey to the destructive power of a funnel cloud, or any other form of catastrophe.

 UMPD Incident Command vehicle

The sheltering drill brought together all manner of emergency services -- UMPD, AFD, UMass Environmental & Safety, UMass EMS, Red Cross, all under the direction of UMass Medical Reserve Corps and UMass Office of Emergency Management.

 Check in started at 2:00 p.m.

 About 100 cots set up on the main floor

All participants were tracked by electronic bracelets keeping a data base of who checked in or out so authorities would have an accurate measure of the shelter's population.  And if loved ones called to find a missing person the data base would instantly indicate if that individual was on site.  

During the 2011 October Halloween snowstorm,  that knocked out power in Amherst for up to a week, the nearest emergency shelter was in Northampton. 


Anonymous said...

Some shelter. It will be fun being inside watching the roof being torn off.

Larry Kelley said...

Well, the shelter is set up AFTER the storm has hit. And it does take a few hours to set up.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing that cannot be given a negative spin from the peanut gallery on this blog....nothing that is spared from the nattering nabobs of negativity.

Anonymous said...

Well then, after the storm hits you'll have a clear view of the sky.

Dr. Ed said...

When it first opened, the Mullins Center was supposed to be evacuated if wind gusts were expected to exceed 55 MPH.

The roof has a bad design -- I believe it still does.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Ed, it will fall down any day now, if a certain bag of wind starts posting. Hint, Hint.

Keithw said...

This is a great idea for people who have no other viable options during a catastrophic event, but it eerily reminds me of the Superdome during Katrina. I can see the Mullins Center becoming inundated with people-- especially if students are in town-- in the wake of a tornado. Bad things happen at shelters, especially following disasters. Prepping in advance and fortifying the house is my plan. Even if my house is destroyed, I'd rather camp outside in a tent than be anywhere else.

Dr. Ed said...

Yeah Ed, it will fall down any day now, if a certain bag of wind starts posting.

As I have told more than a few undergraduates, while political connections may enable you to violate the law with impunity, you still don't get away with violating the laws of physics.

Go over to Westfield sometime and watch one of those C5's struggle into the air (it's impressive) -- the same Bernoulli's Principle that lifts that massive aircraft off the ground could (in theory) provide enough lift to the roof to rip it loose from its mountings.

And it's all fine & good for the roof to fly away, the problem is that once it becomes airborne, it inherently will tip a little bit (even if it doesn't start to break up) and the lift will instantly vanish. Remember that it already has been ripped loose from the girders and such that used to hold it off the ground -- that at this point nothing is holding it off the ground.

And we have this little thing called "gravity."

Yes, tons & tons of steel come crashing to the ground. The walls don't have a chance to catch/hold a load like that (remember the World Trade Center towers?) and the entire building is flattened like a pancake.

It would really suck to be inside there at the time...

Now this isn't Ed saying this, but Ed repeating what engineers have said. People who know things like the tensile strength of steel and exactly how much lift a roof of that design would get from wind blowing in whatever direction. A profession that has developed some pretty accurate specifications of the point at which various things break and the engineers "crunched the numbers" and concluded that a 55 MPH wind would likely rip the roof loose from its mountings.

Remember that this is a gust, not a sustained wind (e.g. hurricane) -- we're not talking about the roof flying off into the sunset to never be seen again but instead crashing down on the building (and everyone inside). Like I said, it would really suck to be in there at the time...

Now sophomoric morons can call me all the names they wish -- it neither changes the laws of physics nor what the people whom we consider experts have said about them. Experts whom the Commonwealth licenses as such -- yes, engineers are licensed and we presume that they know what they are talking about.

The people we consider qualified to -- basically -- determine if a building is going to fall down or not concluded that a 55 MPH wind could reasonably be expected to cause structural failure. This is the same thing as the APD saying that if someone drives a car way too fast, on bald tires, on an icy road, and while drunk out of his/her/its mind, we can reasonably expect the vehicle to become a pile of twisted metal in the woods.

I've told undergrads that while being friends with lots of cops may prevent one from getting a speeding ticket, it isn't going to prevent the vehicle from wrapping around a telephone pole. Likewise, whatever I may be or what people may wish to falsely defame me as being, it isn't going to prevent wind from lifting that roof.

Dr. Ed said...

I agree Keithw -- remember that Mississippi was actually hit harder by Katrina than Louisiana -- antebellum mansions were literally blown off their foundations. Folks in Mississippi looked out for themselves and for each other -- while those in New Orleans expected the government to provide for them.

When (not if) another hurricane goes up the Connecticut River like it did in 1938, when the credit cards become irrelevant, people are going to find that family & friends are the most important possessions they have.

You and I will be OK, as will the people whom we care about. A lot of others aren't going to be...

And remember that the Superdome's roof did start to fail -- and well might have come crashing down on the people inside had the wind not stopped when it did...

Dr. Ed said...

"Galloping Gertie" was something else -- harmonic motion -- but a 42 MPH wind literally blew down a bridge. It really happened.

Now I doubt they show that movie in Amherst High School -- it involves the teaching of math & physics instead of social justice -- but Ed didn't do this.

And remember the I-95 bridge in Connecticut where the pins let go and an entire section went into the drink, vehicles and all?

And Larry, I'm sure you remember the saga of the UM Tower Library -- built in 1970, condemned in 1980 -- the structural concrete in the base was spalling and the question was how much more of it can fall off before there isn't enough left to hold the building up anymore. (The bricks were something else -- other than being a bit windy, the building itself would have been fine had all of them fallen off en masse (as was feared) -- it just would have really sucked to be walking into the building at the time...)

And yes, the story about the UMass tower leaning to the left is actually true. T-6 (Washington Dorm) is either 3 or 6 degrees off center (I forget which) and leaning toward the river. The Connecticut River is a fault line and they didn't find bedrock on the west side of T-6.