TTU National Wind Institute receives new tornado research grant - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

TTU National Wind Institute receives new tornado research grant

The VorTECH tornado simulator at Tech's National Wind Institute (Source: KCBD video) The VorTECH tornado simulator at Tech's National Wind Institute (Source: KCBD video)

Thursday marks 47 years since a devastating F5 tornado hit Lubbock.

On May 11, 1970, 26 people were killed and more than 1,500 people were injured in the tornado's path.

The damage and loss of life sparked the beginning of important research at what is now Texas Tech's National Wind Institute.

That research continues today as researchers prepare to receive a new $350,000 grant.

The main goal is to understand the effects of tornadoes on low rise buildings such as houses or schools, and to eventually improve how we build these structures.

Inside of the National Wind Institute building at Reese Center, is the second largest tornado simulator in the world, called the VorTECH.

"We have eight fans at the top. We have some air foils at the bottom to guide the wind so the wind starts rotating and goes up. This mimics the tornado wind flow," Dr. Delong Zuo said.

Dr. Zuo says the goal of this three-year project is to figure out how to reduce damage on low-rise buildings from the rotating wind caused by tornadoes.

They use small scale model buildings to test this.

"We put what we call pressure tabs, basically they are openings. We hook these openings to some tubing and this gets into some transducers. And the transducers will mirror the pressure at this point. So by mirroring the pressure, we can calculate the forces acting on different parts of the building," Dr. Zuo said.

The pressure points collect data and tell the researchers which area of the building is most affected by the winds, therefore they can decide how to build stronger structures.

Dr. Zuo described why this research is so important.

"The buildings are not designed for this type of wind yet. We want to make some contribution so that later buildings will be designed for this kind of wind so the buildings will be less prone to damage. That's our goal," Dr. Zuo said.

Dr. Zuo says they hope this project will make a difference in the near future.

"It's exciting because we can contribute to you know, reducing the damage to buildings and save lives. So, and especially for West Texas. I think people probably understand the importance of this," Dr. Zuo said.

Another aspect of this project is figuring out where to put storm shelters in a building like your house or a school, and how strong those shelters need to be.

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