Wind Research Experts Available to Discuss Late-Season Tornado Outbreak

Texas Tech University is home to the National Wind Institute, which leads the nation in wind research.

At least six people are dead, and thousands homeless and without power across the Midwest. Twelve states were affected by Sunday’s powerful storms that produced several tornadoes. Illinois, Indiana and Ohio were the hardest hit.

Texas Tech University is home to the National Wind Institute, which leads the nation in wind research. The department was born 43 years ago, after an F5 tornado killed 26 people and destroyed portions of downtown Lubbock. Faculty representing the university’s civil engineering department and atmospheric sciences group began to think what could be done to minimize the effects of severe wind events such as tornadoes and hurricanes on lives and structures.

NWI combines the former Wind Science and Engineering (WiSE) research center, which created the first doctorate in wind science and engineering, with the Texas Wind Energy Institute (TWEI), creator of the only Bachelor of Science degree in wind energy. NWI strengthens the university’s interdisciplinary approach to all things wind.

Through NWI, scientists and engineers have collected one of the country’s largest repositories of wind data and helped develop the Enhanced Fujita Scale, implemented in 2007 by the National Weather Service.

John Schroeder, professor of atmospheric sciences and director of NWI, brings extensive experience in wind flow characterization and atmospheric measurements, including directing Texas Tech’s hurricane research program and West Texas Mesonet. Schroeder can be reached at (806) 834-5678 or john.schroeder@ttu.edu.

Christopher Weiss, associate professor of atmospheric science, has researched the genesis and low-level wind structure of tornadoes for the past 13 years. He also maintains a research interest in the processes responsible for the generation of the parent thunderstorms.  He can speak to the current scientific understanding regarding why tornadoes form and intensify, as well as how the structure of the tornado relates to the observed damage seen at the ground.  He can be reached at (806) 834-4712 or chris.weiss@ttu.edu.

Ernst Kiesling, research professor at the National Wind Institute and executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association, can speak on the construction and use of residential and community shelters. Kiesling has more than 35 years of experience in the field documenting storm damage, writing performance standards for safe rooms, and verifying compliance of safe rooms with those standards. He can be reached at (806) 834-1931 or ernst.kiesling@ttu.edu.

Darryl James, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and WiSE associate, and his team spent more than a year and a half building a tornado simulator at Reese Center. The device, known as VorTECH, simulates tornadic winds in the mid-EF3 range or less, in an effort to understand how tornadoes do their damage. James can be reached at (806) 834-3386 or darryl.james@ttu.edu. And watch VorTECH at work:

Larry Tanner, research assistant professor at the National Wind Institute, has years of field experience studying tornado damage and debris. Tanner’s research of approximately 400 manufactured homes damaged by a 2005 tornado that killed 22 people in Evansville, Ind., prompted new standards for mobile home installation in the region. Tanner can be reached at (806) 834-2320 or larry.tanner@ttu.edu.

Daan Liang, assistant professor of construction engineering technology at Texas Tech, has studied with various probability models how the construction of buildings affects their vulnerability against severe windstorms. Recently, his research is focused on the advancement of remote sensing technology in documenting and assessing wind damages to residential structures. Liang can be reached at (806) 834-0383 or daan.liang@ttu.edu.

Bradley Ewing, professor of operations management in the Rawls College of Business, has studied the economic impact of hurricanes and tornadoes for more than 12 years. He can speak to the impact of hurricanes and tornadoes in cities like Oklahoma City; Corpus Christi; Wilmington, N.C.; Miami; and Nashville, Tenn. Ewing can be reached at (806) 834-3939 or bradley.ewing@ttu.edu.