Vol. 1, Issue 7, June 24, 2003
FEMA Plans Tornado-Powered Electrical System
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced plans to address the frequent power grid catastrophes faced by the tornado-ravaged heartland.
"It has occurred to us that loss of electrical power is a major infrastructure problem caused by tornadoes," said FEMA spokesman Evan Hubbard. "It has also occurred to us that tornadoes traditionally contain a good deal of wind, and that wind can be used to generate electricity. We're trying to make lemons into lemonade, so to speak."
The plan calls for thirty eight massive wind turbines to be installed in the more tornado-prone areas of the country, including Arkansas and Missouri. In order to maximize effectiveness, they will be located in areas adjacent to trailer parks.
"This way, any tornado that knocks out the primary power grid will automatically provide the energy for an emergency, secondary grid, which will enable uninterrupted electrical service to affected areas. This will be crucial in times of emergency," said Hubbard.
"I, for one, am concerned that insufficient attention is being paid to the emergency energy needs of my state," said Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. "If FEMA has $84 billion to spend, I want to make sure that our tornado-related needs are also being met."
The plan also has detractors in the scientific community.
"Well, for starters, tornadoes only last a few minutes at most," said University of Texas climatologist Christopher Jones. "So they could hardly be expected to provide continuous electrical power to an affected area. Moreover, the odds of a tornado actually coming into contact with one of the proposed generators will be astronomically small, even if they are located next to trailer parks." He noted that some of the states to receive the turbines contain up to 40% trailer parks by total acreage.
The size of the turbines is also an issue. In order to withstand the tremendous forces generated by a tornado, the turbines will need to have advanced flexible-metal alloy blades, with total rotor diameters exceeding 150 meters. This will make them virtually useless in any weather conditions not involving an actual tornado.
"You might as well plan a town's electrical supply using lightning rods," said Jones.
Boeing, which has been contracted to build the turbines, insisted that the project is technically sound.
"Let's put it this way: Once these generators are in place, no one will be questioning their value," said Boeing vice president Ariel Ipswitch; "at least, no one whose house wasn't acquired via eminent domain."