Good News with Dave: Age old tornado questions answered with research at WTAMU

WEST TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY, TEXAS (KFDA) - Technological advancements over the past few decades have led to increasing knowledge and a better understanding about the behavior of tornadoes.

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That understanding, however, is not yet complete, but some of the latest tornado research is underway right here in our area.

After years of observation and study, can you believe we still don't know exactly how strong tornadic winds can be? It's kind of exciting because the answers to some of those age old tornado questions may be determined right here at West Texas A&M University.

Dr. Arn Womble was recently awarded a $500,000 grant for tornado wind research.

"We are working with primarily structural wind research and high wind effects trying to come up with wind speeds particularly from tornadoes, since we don't know well what the wind speeds are in tornadoes," said Dr. Womble. "We have to hack our way into that, we are using structural damage essentially as a proxy to determine what kind of wind speeds we are seeing and what we need to design for the future."

Dr. Womble and his team use 3-D laser technology to document tornado damaged structures for wind study.

"We would take the laser scanner, and we would want to place it at strategic locations around the house," said Peter Hughes, a senior engineering student. "We are able to create a three-dimensional model. We want to go back later and view, as if we were there, what the scene was like on the day of the accident.

We are trying to determine how the wind damage occurred, how to prevent that damage, and how the structure can be redesigned to prevent that same damage from occurring in the future."

The research being done at WTAMU is expected to shed light on how structures should be built in the future to withstand tornadic forces.

"There is an effort underway with structural engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers to come up with tornado wind speeds that need to be in building codes," explained Dr. Womble. "We have typically not had that in the past. We don't know those numbers."

Findings may also help improving the accuracy of the E.F. tornado intensity scale.

There could actually be a revision to the scale.

"That is coming, and we are glad to be a part of that," said Dr. Womble. "We will be able to catalog better the damage and eventually get to a better idea of the wind speeds."

Important tornado research to find out just exactly how powerful they are and how to build to withstand them, done right here at WTAMU - Now that's good news.

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