Although Chicago isn’t called the “Windy City” because of the wind, Loyola students might think otherwise after being nearly swept off their feet in campus wind tunnels.
Rick DiMaio — a climate change professor at Loyola and former meteorologist who’s studied Chicago’s wind tunnels in the past — said wind tunnels are created by north and northeastern winds hitting tall buildings on campus such as Mundelein Center for the Performing Arts and Mertz Residence Hall.
“You need tall buildings to create a squeeze on the wind,” DiMaio said. “So just like when you try to squeeze water through a small hole, if you can continue to provide the same amount of pressure, the water will push through a bit quicker.”
Lake Michigan’s smooth surface also causes north and northeastern winds to be funneled quickly into alleyways and tunnels, according to DiMaio.
The tunnels on campus are infamous among students, causing some to lose their balance and their belongings.
Filip Zigic, a 21-year-old junior accounting major said he noticed the winds created by wind tunnels can cause people to lose their footing and increase the effects of windchill to a painful level. Zigic said he’s familiar with the Mertz wind tunnel because he walks from the Loyola CTA Red Line station to the Edward Crown Center for the Humanities every day.
“[The wind] is crazy,” Zigic said. “Not only is there the wind tunnel effect but it’s also very cold, even during the summer. It’s even worse in the winter because it’s a horrible, biting cold which happens to go through any jacket you’re wearing that day.”
Because of its abundance of skyscrapers, Chicago is a hub for these wind tunnels.
Ashley Donald, Loyola Student
“I know there are certain areas on campus where you’re walking through and it just feels like you’re getting slapped in the face and that you’re being pushed back.”
Some of the major wind tunnels DiMaio studied in the past include the intersections of West Irving Park Road and North Clarendon Avenue in the Buena Park neighborhood and North Michigan Avenue and East Randolph Street in the Loop, according to DiMaio.
K’Lyn Glass, a 20-year-old junior political science major, said she’s seen this happen a few times and has personally lost her hat in the wind.
“My hat always blows off because I don’t wear a skullcap,” Glass said. “People who ride bikes or skateboard are often tippy or uneasy or fall off so you do see that a lot.”
The sensation may be overwhelming for some, but the real danger is loose items flying from balconies, according to DiMaio. Students might fall over in the right conditions but the chance of getting hurt is fairly low, DiMaio said.
“I think people are smart enough to know that when it gets windy, you just kind of hold onto things,” DiMaio said.
Kira Hutson, a 21-year-old senior advocacy and social change and women and gender studies double major, said she’s struggled in the intense winds on campus.
“When I lived in Mertz, it felt like I was being picked up by the wind walking down the stairs,” Hutson said.
Ashley Donald, a 20-year-old junior neuroscience major, said she’s also had some unpleasant encounters with the wind tunnels.
“I know there are certain areas on campus where you’re walking through and it just feels like you’re getting slapped in the face and that you’re being pushed back,” Donald said.