How to save the Midwest from tornadoes with a 1,000-foot wall

Tornadoes are a big problem in the U.S., and one physicist from Temple University has come up with an innovative new idea to shield the Midwest from Mother Nature's force. It's a 1,000-foot high wall.

"In an ideal world, we should build three walls in Tornado Alley," said physicist Rongjia Tao in an email to the Motherboard website. "The first one should be close to the northern boundary of the Tornado Alley, maybe in North Dakota. The second one should be in the middle, maybe in the middle of Oklahoma and going to east. The third one can be in the south of Texas and Louisiana."

Mr. Tao cites as an example two areas of China, the Northern and Eastern China Plains. Both have a similar geographic location to the U.S. Midwest, but the plains in China don't get hit by so many tornadoes. The reason is, he thinks, a trio of mountain ranges that stretch from east to west, slowing down the winds enough to stop the creation of a tornado. And so, since the Midwest doesn't have any mountain ranges, one solution would be to build a barrier — albeit a one-thousand foot high one.

How much would it cost to build a wall of this height? Well, one mile of it would cost around $160 million, according to one estimate. But Mr. Tao isn't fazed — after all, tornado damage regularly racks up billions of dollars worth of damage. (If you're not sure just how great the vengeance wreaked on a community is, have alook at these before and after pics on Google Street View.)

"Building such walls are feasible," says Tao. "They are much easier than constructing a skyscraper. For example, in Philadelphia, the newly completed Comcast building has about 300-meter height (984 foot). The wall with similar height as the Comcast building should be much easier to be constructed."

If Mr. Tao's proposal doesn't get taken up by either federal or local government, residents of Tornado Alley could always, of course, invest in one of these to drive around in, or one of these to live in.

Vice, via Engadget

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook