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Natural Air Isn't Always a Spring Breeze
The force of flying debris is the greatest threat for injuries during a tornado. Now, based upon field observations in Oklahoma, Texas Tech University researchers are confident an in-residence shelter of the type designed at Texas Tech can survive an F4 or F5 class storm.
Texas Tech wind researchers traveled to the Oklahoma City area to survey damage and find additional ways to save lives. In Del City, Okla., they located an in-residence shelter that survived the storm and withstood the devastating winds of Monday's deadly tornado. It protected and saved the lives of Del City residents Beth Bartlett and her mother, Norma Bartlett, and their pets. The Bartletts' shelter was built in a walk-in closet in a bedroom.
"The shelter was wonderful. It saved my life. I will have one when I rebuild my new house," said Beth Bartlett.
To the naked eye, it looks like any other room in the house. What is not seen however, is the reinforced concrete or other impact resistant material with which the safe room is constructed. It is the type of shelter that professors from Texas Tech have designed after nearly 30 years of research on the effects of winds, such as those from tornadoes and hurricanes.
"The classic picture that really inspired the concept of the above ground shelter was a bathroom that was standing and it was the only thing standing for some distance around. We design for what we consider is about the worst case tornado of 250 miles per hour, that cover more than 99 percent of all the tornadoes that have occurred in the U.S.," said Ernst Kiesling, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech.
Kiesling said that the in-residence shelter offers peace of mind. "When you consider that, regardless of the weather, you can go about your normal living patterns and feel that the safest place for you to be is at home, that's a tremendous advantage," said Kiesling.
Larry J. Tanner, a Texas Tech research associate, professional engineer and registered architect, surveyed Bartlett's shelter. "It's awesome. There is not a crack or a tear in it. It was perfectly safe," said Tanner.
Texas Tech researchers are constantly working on improving storm safety by performing damage investigations following tornadoes and hurricanes. Three field teams are in Oklahoma, and more teams will travel to severe storm sites, as the 1999 tornado season continues.
If you are interested in obtaining design plans for an in-residence shelter, Texas Tech and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have released a booklet called "Taking Shelter From the Storm." A free copy can be received by calling FEMA at 1-888-565-3896.
More information also is available on the internet at Wind.ttu.edu.
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