June 3, 2008 -- Hurricane season has officially begun and "Good Morning America" kicked off the season with an unusual demonstration. Anchor Sam Champion faced down a simulated Category 4 hurricane, reporting the nation's weather as he was pummeled with 120 mph winds and rain.
Champion was at the University of Florida's Civil and Costal Engineering Department, where researchers are currently in the midst of a groundbreaking study on hurricanes.
Their hurricane stimulator is strong, powered by four engines, using 4 gallons of diesel fuel each minute and producing up to 35 inches of rain an hour. At 60,000 pounds, it's the world's largest portable hurricane simulator.
"After the 2004-2005 hurricanes we saw that water intrusion in homes was a significant problem," said Forrest Masters, assistant professor of engineering, "We needed a new tool to find out how wind and rain get into your home."
The machine also tests the threat posed to homes by tiles and shingles that could be torn loose during a storm. They use that data to determine the necessary strength of nails needed to hold down a home's roof.
Researchers are using new home construction with waterproof materials used to create sealed windows and properly tiled roofs.
"You create an envelope along the outside of a house," explained Champion. "It will keep the inside pretty safe up to a pretty intense storm."