T. Theodore Fujita: His Contribution to Tornado Knowledge through Damage Documentation and the Fujita Scale

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  • 1 Department of Civil Engineering, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas
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The Fujita scale and extensive documentation of tornado damage are two of T. Theodore Fujita's most important legacies. The Fujita scale is the primary instrument for indirect estimates of tornado wind speed intensity used today. This paper reviews the development and application of the Fujita scale and points out the advantages and shortcomings of the scale, which Fujita clearly recognized.

With regard to damage documentation, Fujita and his colleagues flew over more than 300 tornado damage swaths from 1965 to 1991. He had an uncanny ability to sort out damage indicators on the ground and come up with plausible flow patterns. He also had a unique ability to present his analysis in a clear, concise graphical form. The author collaborated with Fujita by means of ground surveys and engineering analyses while under contract with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Lessons learned from the Grand Island, Nebraska; Grand Gulf, Mississippi; and Bossier City, Louisiana; tornadoes are described in the paper. The combination of ground and air surveys by an engineer and a meteorologist proved to be an effective team. It was a great pleasure to work with Ted Fujita, and the author doubts if anyone will ever have the enthusiasm and intuition of Fujita over his long career.

Corresponding author address: Dr. James R. McDonald, Department of Civil Engineering, Texas Tech University, Box 41023, Lubbock, TX 79409. E-mail: Jim.McDonald@coe.ttu.edu

The Fujita scale and extensive documentation of tornado damage are two of T. Theodore Fujita's most important legacies. The Fujita scale is the primary instrument for indirect estimates of tornado wind speed intensity used today. This paper reviews the development and application of the Fujita scale and points out the advantages and shortcomings of the scale, which Fujita clearly recognized.

With regard to damage documentation, Fujita and his colleagues flew over more than 300 tornado damage swaths from 1965 to 1991. He had an uncanny ability to sort out damage indicators on the ground and come up with plausible flow patterns. He also had a unique ability to present his analysis in a clear, concise graphical form. The author collaborated with Fujita by means of ground surveys and engineering analyses while under contract with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Lessons learned from the Grand Island, Nebraska; Grand Gulf, Mississippi; and Bossier City, Louisiana; tornadoes are described in the paper. The combination of ground and air surveys by an engineer and a meteorologist proved to be an effective team. It was a great pleasure to work with Ted Fujita, and the author doubts if anyone will ever have the enthusiasm and intuition of Fujita over his long career.

Corresponding author address: Dr. James R. McDonald, Department of Civil Engineering, Texas Tech University, Box 41023, Lubbock, TX 79409. E-mail: Jim.McDonald@coe.ttu.edu
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