Hurricane proof traffic lights coming to South Carolina

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Hurricane proof traffic lights are being designed for South Carolina.

Those of you who weathered hurricane Hugo know the wind can destroy traffic lights, making it much harder to recover after a storm.

This week Robert Townsend, a Palm Beach County resident, met with the South Carolina Department of Transportation to reveal a new hurricane proof traffic signal that he invented.

"What we presented was a new plastic material, an engineer modified plastic material, a new hanger system," Townsend said. "They seem to be very accepting of it."

In 2004 and 2005 Florida was nailed by back-to-back hurricanes. Those storms ended up destroying many of the state's traffic signals.

Townsend says he and his wife decided to make a hurricane traffic light as a way to help people and hopefully save some lives.

The father of nine started tinkering with different designs until his creativity blossomed into a hurricane proof box for traffic lights. From there into a hurricane proof traffic signal.

"It's all one piece, one piece housing for the same three lights. There's a hanger system that runs down through the center of it. When the signal starts bouncing and shaking all the load stays to the iron and stays away from the plastic," says Townsend.

Florida's DOT and the University of Florida tested his creation with a wind machine named Medusa. They found the new design could withstand wind gusts up to 140 miles per hour.

"Our engineers, they're Aerospace Defense Engineers, they've done analysis," says Townsend. "They're comfortable that even on the more turbulent winds it will still be in good shape."

Townsend believes South Carolina has an excellent maintenance program, but the traffic signals have to be replaced every seven and a half years. He also believes his new model could extend the life of those signals up to twenty-five years.

Right now, he's working on creating several prototypes for the Palmetto State.

Townsend's design has become the standard for Florida, and he hopes his hurricane proof traffic lights will become the standard all along the East Coast.