Joe Birch's Force of Nature, Part 2

Our story begins at Texas Tech University in Lubbock...where engineers seek ways to provide more shelter from the storm.

This test involves launching 2-by-4s from a cannon at 100 miles an hour!

The target: a door plated with ARMOUR.

So much for protection.

Larry Tanner with Texas Tech University says, "...An occupant inside that safe room probably wouldn't have been very safe. So that's the reason we do the research."

It's research that started more than 30 years ago...when tornadoes devastated Lubbock, Texas.

Researchers at T-T-U's Wind Science and Engineering Research Center now study the storms and their impact...on the structures around us.

Charles Weiss with Texas Tech says, "...Certainly what we see in the debris impact facility represents one of the worst cases of what a tornado can do to a structure."

This launcher fires all kinds of debris, usually a 15 pound 2-by-4, at 100 miles an hour.

I watched with Texas school children as speeding wooden missiles struck a reinforced storm shelter wall!

Texas Tech's Larry Tanner continues, "...If you had been on the other side of this wall and this had been your shelter, you would have been perfectly safe."

But look at what happens to the typical siding you find on most wood frame homes.

This sample has siding, studs and sheet rock.

The 2-by-4 cut through the siding like a hot knife through butter...much like tornadoes did to Mid-South homes earlier this month.

Dyer county resident Dennis Dozier says, "...It seems as everything in Dyer County has been touched by a tornado at one time or another. The places that are still virgin to a tornado are very few now. I'm not going to leave Dyer County. I'm not going to run away from it. But we need to get protected from it."

As Dennis Dozier decides whether to rebuild his 5-thousand square foot dream home, engineers and scientists at Texas Tech seek the materials and designs that will make it safer.

Tanner continues, "...We know we can keep the buildings attached better if we can keep what we call the load path connected all the way down to the foundation system."

As suburbia stretches from Memphis across county lines throughout the Mid-South, tornadoes have more potential targets...and scientists have more work to do to ensure you survive the FORCE OF NATURE.