Meet the Texas Man Who Pioneered Tornado Shelters

If you remember being told to take shelter in an interior part of your house during a storm, you may have this wind researcher to thank.

By Laura RiceJanuary 11, 2016 3:43 pm

There’s one place that leads the world in research about the damage wind can bring and how to protect people from it.

Ernst Kiesling, who has spent the last 40 years at the Texas Tech National Wind Institute, tells the Standard what it takes to make building safer from wind storms.

Kiesling has been a pioneer in the field, helping to develop standardized plans for above-ground storm shelters. After the 1970 tornado in Lubbock, Kiesling says little was known about how to build a building to withstand wind.

“There was really nothing in the literature that would help an architect or engineer design a building for wind resistance,” he says.

One site Kiesling says they studied early in their research was a house where the four outer walls and roof had blown away, leaving an interior pantry still standing. At the time, most protective shelters were underground dugouts near the house.

“We reckoned at that point that if we put a little emphasis and hardened the walls and the roof and did some stiffening of the structure, that it would provide a higher degree of protection,” he says.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.