Texas Tech University

Tornado Experts Available to Give Insight on Severe Weather

Amanda Bowman

April 4, 2018

Peak tornado season is March through May.


Experts from Texas Tech University are available to discuss the current tornado season.

Texas Tech is home to the National Wind Institute (NWI), which leads the nation in wind research. The department was created after an F5 tornado killed 26 people and destroyed portions of downtown Lubbock in 1970. Faculty representing the university's Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering and the atmospheric science group in the Department of Geosciences collaborated on solutions for what could be done to minimize the effects of severe wind events such as tornadoes and hurricanes on lives and structures.


Atmospheric Science

Christopher Weiss 
associate professor, (806) 834-4712 or chris.weiss@ttu.edu

  • Weiss has researched the genesis and low-level wind structure of tornadoes for more than a decade. 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 on the ground.

National Storm Shelter Association

Ernst Kiesling
research professor and executive director of the National Storm Shelter Association, (806) 834-1931 or ernst.kiesling@ttu.edu

  • Kiesling can discuss the construction and use of residential and community shelters. He has more than 50 years of experience in the field documenting storm damage, writing performance standards for safe rooms and verifying compliance of safe rooms with those standards.

Debris Impact

Larry Tanner
assistant research professor and manager of the NWI Debris Impact Facility, (806) 834-2320 or larry.tanner@ttu.edu

  • Tanner has more than 20 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, Indiana, prompted new standards for mobile home installation in the region. The Debris Impact Facility also is studying tornado and hurricane damage using multiple drone platforms.

Tornado Simulation Research

Darryl James
vice provost for institutional effectiveness and a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, (806) 834-3386 or darryl.james@ttu.edu

  • James developed a large-scale tornado simulator located at the Reese Center. The device, known as VorTECH, simulates tornado-like winds in the mid-EF3 range or less and, collaboratively with Delong Zuo, an associate professor of civil engineering, a moving floor has recently been added to VorTECH. The purpose of the research effort is to understand the near-surface velocity and pressure characteristics in order to learn how tornadoes create damage.

Structural Research

Delong Zuo
associate professor of civil engineering, (806) 834-6535 or delong.zuo@ttu.edu

  • Zuo uses both laboratory testing and probabilistic modeling to study the characteristics of tornado-like flows and tornado loading on structures. As the principal investigator of a project supported by the National Science Foundation, he is currently working with Darryl James to study tornado loading on low-rise buildings, which are among the most vulnerable to tornado damage. The outcomes of the research can help improve the resilience of buildings to tornado hazards.

Structural Research

Xinzhong Chen
Ed and Linda Whitacre faculty fellow and professor of civil engineering, (806) 834-6794 or xinzhong.chen@ttu.edu

  • Chen uses measurement data from tornado simulators to characterize non-stationary probabilistic tornado load effects on buildings and other structures. As the principal investigator of a project supported by the National Science Foundation, he is currently working on the modeling and characterization of translating tornado-induced pressures and responses of low-rise buildings based on pressure measurement data from a tornado simulator. The outcome of this research is to provide design loads for low-rise buildings against damaging tornadoes.

Atmospheric Measurements and Wind Flow Characterization

John Schroeder
professor in the Department of Geosciences and NWI affiliate, (806) 834-5678 or john.schroeder@ttu.edu

Economic Impact of Tornadoes

Bradley Ewing
C.T. McLaughlin chair of free enterprise and professor of energy commerce in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business, (806) 834-3939 or bradley.ewing@ttu.edu

  • Ewing has studied the economic impact of hurricanes and tornadoes for more than a decade. He can speak to the impact of hurricanes and tornadoes in cities like Oklahoma City; Corpus Christi; Wilmington, North Carolina; Miami, Florida, and Nashville, Tennessee.

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