Texas Tech University

Wind Hazard Mitigation

The study of wind at Texas Tech began in 1970, following an F5 tornado in Lubbock that caused 26 fatalities and more than $100 million in damages. Since that time Texas Tech’s commitment to wind research has evolved into the National Wind Institute, a collaborative transdisciplinary institute that involves atmospheric science, economics, mathematics, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, construction engineering, computer science, sociology, law and business. As part of our mission, we have several large research projects focused on wind hazard mitigation and other aspects of wind science and engineering.

Main Research Efforts

  • Wind Loads on Low-Rise Buildings
  • Remote Sensing of Windstorm Damage
  • Development and Testing of In-Resident Storm Shelters
  • Estimating Wind and Water Damage in Hurricanes
  • Performance Evaluation of Essential Facilities
  • Wind Flow Characteristics and Wind Speed Profiles found in landfalling Hurricanes
  • Tornado Formation and Dynamics
  • Engineering-Relevant Aspects of Extreme Thunderstorm Winds
  • Development of a Practical Model for Wind and Rain-Wind-Induced Stay Cable
  • Models for Measuring Regional Economic Resilience to Hurricanes
  • New Measures of Hurricane Impact for Innovation in Enterprise Risk Management


Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel

The Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel is a closed-circuit wind tunnel capable of generating wind speeds up to 110 mph. It has an aerodynamic section and a boundary layer section. The boundary layer section is 6 ft. wide and 4 ft. high, and has 58 feet of upstream fetch for development of desired boundary layer flow.

Major instruments available in the wind tunnel include Cobra probes, force transducers, laser displacement sensors and a Scanivalve system for wind, displacement, force and pressure measurements, respectively. The wind tunnel is also equipped with a particle image velocimetry system and a smoke generator for flow visualization.

Testing has included wind-induced vibration of cables on cable-stayed bridges, traffic signal support structures and evaluation of wind loading on sign structures.

Debris Impact Facility

The Debris Impact Facility is intended to promote public safety and welfare and helps prevent deaths and lower property losses incurred due to extreme weather events and their effects. DIF performs debris impact tests on storm shelters, shelter components and building materials in order to develop the safest, most impact-resistant materials to better protect individuals.

The heart of the Debris Impact Facility is a pneumatic cannon capable of producing simulated wind speeds over 250 mph. The cannon can launch different types of simulated wind-born debris in a controlled environment to provide valuable impact resistance data.
The cannon plays an important role in researching effective tornado shelters for use in homes and other structures. The cannon is used to develop standards for safe above ground shelters, and continues to be in demand for testing new shelter materials and construction.

The NWI Debris Impact Lab was selected for Popular Science’s “Most Awesome College Labs 2013"

Mobile StickNets

The student-developed, versatile rapid-deployment 2.5 m meteorological observing platform are used to monitor storms and hurricanes as they happen and relay information in real-time to decision makers.

Called "StickNet" for its resemblance to a stick figure, the 24 platforms function as autonomous mobile observing networks capable of gathering a variety of meteorological information including dryline properties, urban wind flows, density currents, synoptic wind events and terrain-induced flows. Each platform can be deployed by two individuals in a manner of minutes allowing personnel to relocate to safer ground while leaving the instruments in place. This allows the collection of valuable storm data without risk to personnel.

The StickNet platforms have traveled to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to observe multiple hurricane landfalls including Dolly and Ike in Texas in 2008.

The highest wind speed recorded by a StickNet platform to date is 115 mph during the landfall of Hurricane Ike.

Ka-band Mobile Radar Trucks

NWI has two mobile Ka-band Mobile Doppler Radar trucks. These fully coherent, pulse compression Doppler radar systems utilize traveling wave tube technology and provide the ability for four-dimensional mapping of a wide spectrum of atmospheric phenomena with very-fine spatial resolution useful for both the atmospheric science and engineering communities.


VorTECH, located at Reese Technology Center, is designed to simulate tornadic winds in the mid-Enhanced Fujita Scale three (EF3) range or less, or about 150 miles per hour or less, the maximum speed of approximately 92 percent of all tornadoes.

The simulator uses eight large fans to suck up approximately 160,000 cubic feet of air each minute, while 64 strategically placed vanes surround the simulator to create rotation. The force of the wind is measured by dozens of pressure sensors applied to structural models. The data collected will contribute to understanding how tornadoes interact and damage a structure can help researchers develop building codes to improve the safety of structures.

Wind Engineering Research Field Laboratory (WERFL)

WERFL is an instrumented 30x45x13 foot building and signal light structures located at Reese Technology Center. These structures, along with an associated data acquisition system, permit measurements of wind induced pressures and responses in natural wind.

Explore other NWI Research Facilities.