May 15, 2020
May 11, 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of an F-5 tornado that struck Lubbock, Texas. That infamous Monday evening changed tornado science forever—and for the better. Unfortunately, more than two dozen people died during the 1970 tornado and storm. However, damage surveys conducted by Professor Ted Fujita have taught us many important things that have since saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.
So, who was Ted Fujita?
Fujita is considered the “father” of modern tornado research. As a young man in Japan, he helped map damage patterns from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago where he combined his knowledge of wind and blast damage with his fascination for tornadoes.
Ted Fujita and his tornado machine at the University of Chicago. Photo by National Geographic.
The 0-to-5 Fujita Damage Scale, now known as the “F Scale”, allows us to categorize weak, strong, and violent tornadoes based upon the amount of wind damage they do. In 1971, he rated the Lubbock tornado F-5, the strongest possible. Here’s a breakdown of what Fujita and the Lubbock tornado have taught us.