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Texas Tech’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center studies both the negative and positive qualities of wind.

By Susan Fotovich McCabe

Texas Tech’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center (WISE) was established in 1970 in the wake of a tornado that ripped through downtown Lubbock. That twister killed 26 people and caused more than $100 million in damage.

Today, the center’s focus is to study both the negative and positive qualities of wind. Additionally, WISE conducts storm shelter tests to determine whether they meet established Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Storm Shelter Association guidelines. For example, its Debris Impact Facility houses a high-powered air cannon that shoots wooden two-by-fours at shelter walls to simulate flying debris.

“We are working towards understanding the structure of the low-level atmosphere, which directly impacts society,” says John Schroeder, WISE’s director and an associate professor of Atmospheric Science in the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “If we don’t understand why one storm produces a tornado and why another right next to it doesn’t, we’ll never be able to forecast them.”

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