1970 tornado anniversary: What the last 50 years have taught us - FOX34 Lubbock

1970 tornado anniversary: What the last 50 years have taught us

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

In half of a century, we have learned a lot 

"Really meteorology was maybe in its infancy or early stages back then," Jody James of the National Weather Service recounted about the 1970 tornado.

Computer technology like satellites and radar, now taken for granted, can save lives.
By predicting storms with much greater accuracy, saving time to find shelter.

"Numerical modeling, which is us plugging the numbers in and we're kind of running the atmosphere like a computer game, was really just starting or before we had the computing power to do that," James said.

Out of that infamous storm,  came a catalyst of research, taking place right on Texas Tech's campus.

Severe storm researcher Ted Fujita flew over to Lubbock to assess the damage.
The "F-scale" system came about from this tornado.

Kishor Mehta, a civil engineer, has taken that knowledge along with his own research in post-storm damages to perfect the "E-F" or Enhanced Fujita scale.

By today's standards, Lubbock's tornado would be classified as an E-F 5, the most severe kind.

Meanwhile, Ernst Kiesling's research focuses on constructing above ground storm shelters, something you'd be unlikely to find back in the day.

"We saw a small pantry in the center of a kitchen, center of a house. Here was this small room in the central part of the house that was still standing, and we reckoned that would have provided some protection," Kiesling explained.

If there were to be another tornado, like the storm that ripped through the city 5 decades ago,
the experts say Lubbock would not be completely prepared.

"Some of the old buildings would have very similar damage that occurred in 1970. We normally do not design for a tornado of the type that occurred in Lubbock," Mehta said.

"Quite a large number of above ground storm shelters have been built in Lubbock but the percentage of houses that have storm shelters is still rather small. So we have a long way to go," Kiesling said.

With no way to prevent bad weather, communication is perhaps our best modern day defense to prevent the loss of life during severe storms.

"People do need to act on the information, that's something that hasn't changed since 1970. If people don't get the information, ignore it, or don't take the proper precautions, it really doesn't matter," James said.

The good news, experts say, is a tornado of that magnitude is extremely rare.
But it is important to always have a shelter plan in place, in case of an emergency.

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