Wind turbines withstand tornado with nearly 300-mph winds

6 June 2013 by Michele Mihelic

Last week, the widest tornado ever measured on Earth ripped through Canadian County, Okla., destroying many homes and businesses.  This record-setting storm event received an EF5 rating--the highest possible--and was only the eighth tornado of this magnitude to be measured in the state since 1950.

Despite taking a direct hit, two wind turbines at the Canadian Valley Technology Center (CVTC) stood intact after the storm passed. The turbines, on 85- and 126-foot towers--both fully constructed and used for educational purposes--did not suffer any visible damage.

Some news media outlets have inaccurately reported that the center’s child care facility was destroyed by a wind turbine rotor blade during the tornado. However, according to a press release from the CVTC, while the storm did lift a turbine blade that was mounted to concrete blocks on the ground for training purposes, the blade was not attached to a turbine and did not destroy the building. The CVTC reports that the tornado “lifted and turned the blade and rested it against the building.”

To quote the press release further, “Bill Hulsey, El Reno Campus Business and Industry Services Director, said the internet stories about the turbine ‘flying off a tower and into the daycare center’ or destroying it are unfortunate and baseless.”

In short, this incident had nothing to do with an operating wind farm or wind turbine failure, and given that the size and power of the storm were enough to level commercial buildings and toss tractor trailers like toys, it's not surprising that it could move a turbine blade that was lying on the ground.

Read the Canadian Valley Technology Center’s press release on the event.

[Although the CVTC wind turbines survived this horrific event, it was a tragedy for many individuals and families in the area, with loss of life and heavy property damage. See this information from NBC News on how to help victims.]

Related articles:

Wind farm withstands tornado, November 16, 2011
Hurricane Irene and its impact on wind farms, September 8, 2011