"The genesis of the Wind Science and Engineering program was the Lubbock tornado of May 11, 1970," says Dr. Ernst Kiesling, Texas Tech Professor and Director of the Storm Shelter Program. He says, "We had a group of young researchers who were poised to do research but had very little going. When the tornado occurred, they recognized we had a laboratory that was outstanding in terms of studying damaged buildings."
Dr. Kiesling says out of the destruction came the creation of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech and the first comprehensive wind engineering report of its kind. Dr. Kiesling says, "Prior to that point, there was only myth in literature. There were stories of wells being sucked dry by tornados and chickens being plucked. It was generally thought up to that time, that wind speeds had to do with speed of sound."
Since that time, the program has expanded. It now includes 56,000 square feet of indoor laboratory space and a field test site at Reese Technology Center. Here, a C-130 is generating tornado-like winds to show the effects those winds have on homes. Dr. Kiesling says, "We discovered that often times a small part of the house is still standing even if the rest of the house is totally destroyed so the concept of above ground shelters emerged where we focused simply on small rooms to harden and stiffen that would provide a high degree of occupant protection in case of extreme wind."
The research has taken students into the eye of more than 130 major storms. Dr. Kiesling adds, "There was some pioneering done here because the group from Texas Tech designed and built the first rig that could be used to measure ground level speeds in a hurricane."
And it's this cannon that helps determine debris impact. Dr. Kiesling says, "As we better understand the characteristics of extreme winds, we can make better informed decisions on how to resist those forces."
Now, the center is moving into the future with the study of wind power. Dr. Andrew Swift, Director of the Wind Science and Engineering Center says, "The center really started looking at understanding wind to protect people. Now we're going to look at wind as a way to benefit people and society through clean renewable energy."
For more information on Texas Tech's Wind Science and Engineering Program, ( click here ).