Yet Another Wind Disaster

First, take a look at this video: Indiana Stage Collapse: Why Was Warning So Late?

The story is the same. Structures collapsing and killing people under relatively low winds - around 60 mph (~95 kph, or ~27 m/s) only.

There were questions raised about the warning system. Maybe so. But in this author's opinion there definitely was no issue on the weather bureau's part. Except maybe that they left it unto the event organizers or whoever else to say whether to evacuate or not. Well of course they can't do that. If they get it wrong, the public won't trust them anymore. Case in point: PAGASA, the Philippines' weather bureau.

Then there was a warning from the event organizers about the storm, but again nothing about evacuation. Well of course they can't do that. They needed to make money! Complacency, maybe?

And then there are the engineers. Or lack thereof. Or insufficient knowledge or understanding of engineering itself. Structures are typically designed to ~80mph design gust wind speeds in areas such as this. But then, these stage structures are considered only as "temporary" structures. Hence, design loads can be reduced - legally. So they probably adhered to that.

Or maybe, the construction was faulty. How often do these things happen, anyway, right? Once in 50 years? Or once in more than 50 years?

This example highlights one problem of many big problems that (real) engineers have to deal with: society doesn't want disruption in revenue generation, we want to reduce costs, we want to do things fast, we want engineers to follow our wishes because who pays them anyway, right? And finally, we just don't want to learn. About risk. And about the importance of life in everything we do. That decision of yours to hire Contractor A who costs less than Contractor B, or Engineer C who knows less (but is more convincing) than Engineer D - it means lives. Eventually you'll probably able to defend yourself in court, saying that you had nothing to do with it, that it was the contractors or the engineers. Or that decision of yours, Mr. Structural Engineer-pretender, who thinks you understand all that you need to know about wind-resistant design. Oh, and did you really have to ask, how can you earn money when some other engineers contract for much less and pay their employees minimum wage? Oh, the list goes on and on and on.

Do we need another Hurricane Katrina Phenomenon that will affect us directly before we actually take action? It's quite unfortunate. You know what, I would like to start to call it now the Human Being Phenomenon. It's a sad fact, now, yes. But it's not something we can't do nothing about. First things first: open your minds and bone up on wind engineering.

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