Tornado-Related Research Funding Lacking

April 10, 1998

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Wind hazards like hurricanes and tornadoes result in a greater dollar loss than floods and earthquakes in the United States but receive only a fraction of the research funding, according to Clemson University "wind researcher" Ben Sill.

Wind accounts for $1,000 in loss for every $1 in research funding, while flooding accounts for only $70 in loss for every $1 spent and seismic activity accounts for $45 for every $1 spent, Sill said.

"Although some tornadoes or hurricanes will be so strong that extensive damage would be expected, it is not unrealistic to expect that most buildings should withstand even severe storms - Very frequently, though, that's not the case," said Sill, who heads Clemson's wind-load testing facility, where research into making homes and other structures safer from the destructive forces of high wind is conducted.

"In many cases, better design and construction could have saved houses or lives," Sill said.

The Clemson facility is the only one in the nation able to give a complete picture of the effects of wind on so-called "low-rise structures" like homes, schools and churches. That's because it tests not only the wind load on structures - i.e., how strong the wind is - but also the reciprocating resistance of the building itself - i.e., how strong the building is.

"Studying only one side of the equation gives an incomplete picture," said Sill, an Alumni Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering at Clemson.

Dr. Sill, along with other Clemson researchers, was part of the team that made recommendations on construction practices in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. He was co-chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers conference "Hugo: One Year Later."

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Clemson University

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