There have been many imaginative ideas about how to stop tornado destruction in the U.S., particularly in the area known as Tornado Alley where they are ubiquitous. Change the wind direction? Missiles? Bombs? Ice? How about walls?
One scientist thinks we can protect parts of the central USA from ferocious tornadoes by building several gigantic walls across Tornado Alley:
“If we build three east-west great walls in the American Midwest …. one in North Dakota, one along the border between Kansas and Oklahoma to the east, and the third one in south Texas and Louisiana, we will diminish the tornado threats in the Tornado Alley forever,” according to physicist Rongjia Tao of Temple University.
The walls would stop the flow of air from north and south, thus preventing the tornadoes from forming, he said. As an example he cites China, where east-west mountain ranges help reduce tornadoes there.
Naysayers abound. Aside from the cost of $60 billion per 100 miles (according to Tao’s estimates) and huge engineering challenges, “it wouldn’t work,” tornado researcher Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said in an e-mail.
Brooks thinks the physicist has ventured out of his realm of expertise. Weather doesn’t work like standard physics. Others also call the idea nonsense and implausible. We could also call these walls “mountains”. While, yes, the Plains are flat and lack of mountains encourage tornadoes and their travel, places with mountains also have tornadoes. This idea is silly. Such funds would be better spent on safety for structures and preparedness.