June 5, 2013
When you think of a tornado, you rightly think that there's little you can do to protect
yourself short of huddling in a fortified underground bunker. Yet in the case of an
F4 or F5 tornado, a fortified underground shelter would be the best bet.
Ernst Kiesling, executive director of the NSSA and professor emeritus of wind engineering at Texas Tech University, says there are different advantages to above- and below-ground structures. "After the Moore tornado, I heard the media say that the safest place is being underground. That is absolutely incorrect," Kiesling says. Underground structures will face significantly less wind force but can be difficult to access, especially for the elderly or physically disabled. Kiesling says that it's best to make a house function more efficiently, such as reinforcing small rooms and designing with load paths. However, it can be difficult to retrofit entire homes once they are built. Storm proofing is best reserved for new homes or major remodeling.