Dr Kishor C. Mehta | Communicators in a Cart


– [Chris] Communication
is what we do every day, and it’s intricately connected
to our success and failures. My name is Chris Cook. I’m the Managing Director of the Office of
Communication and Marketing at Texas Tech University
and Texas Tech Public Media. Texas Tech University is
full of great communicators and together we hope to
bring you perspectives and insight that can
help you in your field. This is Communicators in a Cart. Dr. Kishor Mehta is a horn professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Texas Tech University. Whether you’ve heard of him or not, the work of he and his
colleagues is on display when meteorologists around the country refer to the EF Scale when
measuring tornado intensity. Following 50-plus years on campus, he has become a valuable
resource for students and up-and-coming faculty researchers. (knocks lightly) – Yes.
– Dr. Mehta? – Yes. – How you doing? – I’m doing fine. – Good. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? – Yes, I’d like that. – [Chris] I’d like to visit
with you for a little while. – All right, sure. – [Chris] All right. I’ll pull your door. – All right. (lively piano music) This cart belongs to you, or
it belongs to the department? – It’s the president’s cart. I just started using it one day, never asked.
– Oh, I see. – I mean I did ask because
I have to get the keys from the president’s office, but I never asked the president. We interviewed President
Schovanec a couple weeks ago, and it ran a few weeks ago
and I think he enjoyed it. He did a good job and it kinda gets me some more time in his golf cart. – I see. (chuckles) – Until I get my own cart. Now you mentioned to me earlier, when you got here in the 60s, I don’t mean to date you, you got here in the 60s but– – Well, it was in mid-60s, yes. – There were 11,000 students, and things have changed. – Yes, they have. Though, surprisingly, the
administration building, the science area, the engineering key, has essentially, more or
less, remained the same. – Right. (upbeat jazz music) Dr. Mehta, I wanna start early
in your career at Texas Tech, and your involvement
in wind research here. It’s probably safe to
say you are wind research at Texas Tech. In 1970, you got here in
the mid ’60s, but in 1970, what’s referred to as the Lubbock Tornado went through downtown and
some of the neighborhoods and it was complete devastation. What did that event do to help generate or energize the wind research
program at Texas Tech? – We normally tried to test
things in the laboratory, and for components of
the buildings and so on. Well, when the tornado occurred, and of course it occurred at night, so we really couldn’t see it, but I was able to see
there was a lot of damage. So the next morning,
when I came to Texas Tech in the department, I was young and enthusiastic, and I told the chairman of the department, I said, even though there
were 25 people killed, so many people injured, and certainly there was a lot of, dispiriting for people, it was an opportunity
to be able to go out, and since it was in our backyard, to record what has happened, and that would give us an idea how the buildings have
performed in tornadoes. Very little was known at
that time about tornadoes. The feeling was that the wind speeds were like 500 miles per hour, nothing will survive in tornadoes, and a lot of myths at the time. So that’s what kind of got us started because nobody else had done
as much of a documentation, and we were lucky that
it was right in town. And so we did that and
did the analysis of it. And also at the same time, Dr. Ted Fujita, under his named F-scale, that he was developing
F-scale at that time, and his report actually came out in ’71. To give us an opportunity to be known, and we become famous simply
because nobody else had done it. – Talking about the Fujita scale, and when you watch the news now, what people may not know is
the Enhanced Fujita Scale, we hear EF-5, EF-4 is now what we hear. You and your colleagues were responsible for enhancing the Fujita scale. To be a part, I think, of something that people are so familiar
with and that affects them, the intensity of these tornadoes
and understanding those, especially coming from an
area like the Deep South and then across the Plains, I think it has a big effect on people. – Well, yeah, it does, and
actually I’ve been here for a long time as we talked about it, and we’ve done continuously some kind of wind research since 1970. And there are several
things that we have done which I feel very proud of, but the two things that we have done that have made a major difference to public and to the society
is, one of them is EF Scale and the other one is the safe room. In 1970s and 74, the popular thing was to open the windows in case of a tornado, to equalize the pressure. Now the logic is not bad, and not knowing at that time, that what
impact it would have, but after doing all the
damage investigation for first four or five
years, we came to conclusion that opening the windows
doesn’t do any good because the window glass breaks anyway with the high winds and the
debris, and it opens on its own, so you’re not really
increasing any pressure, if anything at all, if
you open the windows the wind will come inside and
it will increase the pressure. So things like that
that were fairly simple, at least I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to do that and that has changed the
criteria for tornado. – Dr. Mehta, I can say without hesitation, it is a pleasure that you
came on this show with us. So thank you so much for joining us. – Well, I appreciate it. (lively big band music)

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