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CEE researchers studying Oklahoma tornado damage

6/7/2013 5:21:00 AM

Above: James LaFave (left) and Larry Fahnestock (right)

Structural engineering researchers from the University of Illinois will be in Moore, Oklahoma, June 7-9, studying damage from the E5 tornado that hit the Oklahoma City suburb on May 20. Their goal is to examine residential, public and commercial buildings to see what lessons can be learned about the engineering of structures, construction practices and disaster preparedness.

A fast response is essential after disasters, because recovery and cleanup efforts typically destroy the evidence. Funded by a Rapid Response Grant from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), Associate Professor James LaFave and Assistant Professor Larry Fahnestock plan to survey the damage while it is still relatively undisturbed. LaFave and Fahnestock will view homes, schools, hospitals, businesses and other structures in the tornado’s path, which has been estimated by the National Weather Service to be 17 miles long and more than a mile wide. The team’s particular interest is in low-rise structures common throughout the Midwest. They also plan to observe the performance of above-ground safe rooms.

The information that LaFave and Fahnestock gather will form the basis for continuing research with the goal of better understanding, analyzing and designing for strong wind and debris, or “windborne missile,” effects on structures due to tornadoes.

LaFave and Fahnestock are members of the structural engineering faculty. They teach courses related to the behavior and design of civil engineering structures.

The CEE Rapid Response Grant Program was designed to support high-impact research related to infrastructure improvement and societal risk management in the wake of disasters. A second research team is currently studying the I-5 bridge collapse in Washington.