Taming Tornado Alley

by Harold W. Harris, Partner; BGR Architects/Engineers, Lubbock, TX,
Kishor C. Mehta, (F.ASCE), Prof.; Texas Tech. Univ., Lubbock, TX,
James R. McDonald, (F.ASCE), Prof.; Texas Tech. Univ., Lubbock, TX,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 6, Pg. 77-78

Document Type: Feature article


Some structures—such as nuclear power plants—need complete protection from tornadoes regardless of the high costs of design and construction. Public facilities need protection too, but local governments rarely have the necessary funds. Yet a fairly high degree of defense is available for a minimal amount of money. By strengthening an interior section of a building as an enhanced tornado protection area (ETPA), many lives can be saved and budgets can be met. Over the last few years, engineers at BGR, Lubbock, TX, have designed more than half a dozen schools and other public buildings with ETPA. Most of this work has taken place in Tornado Alley, an area that stretches from West Texas through Kansas and Oklahoma to the Midwest. Protective areas should be placed on the same floor as the occupancy it serves. Moving several hundred students up or down stairs is time consuming. Ease of access often dictates a protective area near the center of the building and fed directly by corridors. If heavily populated spaces, such as school classrooms or media centers, are chosen many occupants may already be sheltered when a warning is issued. This could be even more significant in a case where no warning is received before a tornado strikes.

Subject Headings: Tornadoes

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