Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA hosts tornado research team

A research team featuring professors and scientists from all over America has been gathered in Tuscaloosa since late April to investigate and gather data about the damage to buildings and structures affected by the tornado that ripped through the city on April 27.

John W. van de Lindt, a University of Alabama professor of civil engineering and member of the team, said the goal of their research in the city was twofold.

Primarily, the team was looking for ways that better engineering and building could save lives and protect residents during dangerous storms and tornadoes.

Secondarily, he said the team was researching ways in which they could minimize damage to property and essentially narrow the swath of major destruction a tornado causes.

“The sole answer for personal safety is a shelter or a storm room, something of that effect,” van de Lindt said. “Still, people have to design their homes with both of those things in mind, their own safety and minimal damage to their homes during a tornado, because there’s just no way to predict where in the path of the tornado they will be or how much danger they will be in.”

“The protection of human life is most important, of course,” van de Lindt said. “You just can’t put a dollar sign on the value of someone’s life. But we’re also working to try to significantly reduce losses due to tornado damages.”

“As engineers and builders, we’re no longer willing to throw up our hands and say that we can’t create buildings that can resist the damage of tornadoes,” he said.

Van de Lindt said that in the center of EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes, major and even total devastation was unavoidable. However, he added that 97 percent of tornadoes are EF3 or less.

“Those are still very scary,” he said, “but we can design buildings to resist the damage caused by tornadoes of that scale.”

Van de Lindt said that even in a larger tornado, an EF4 or EF5, only the center of the storm has wind speeds that merit such a high classification. Farther away from the center, the classification drops to lower levels, so even structures that are hit by the edges of a major tornado can be designed and built to protect its residents and withstand major damage.

The group’s research and transportation is being funded by a Rapid Response Grant for Exploratory Research by the National Science Foundation. This has allowed the team to work quickly and effectively and later have their costs covered by the grant.

According to van de Lindt, a draft of a report of their findings, primarily concerned with structures supported by wooden frames and methods of construction to improve their tornado resistance, will be written sometime this week, and the group hopes to see it published within the next few weeks.



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