Severe Weather Series: Tornadopod

After seeing the devastation of a tornado outbreak in Alabama in April 2011, a Frisco, Texas man woke up in the middle of the night with a vision.

 

Wes Kouba doesn’t like small spaces.

 

Which makes finding him in a tiny storage unit working on a new design for a tornado shelter a bit ironic.

 

“There were people who got trapped in their standard cellar type storm shelter and they were trapped, some of them up to 36 hours, and I kept thinking, my goodness gracious, what would I do if that was me because I’m a little bit claustrophobic”, said Kouba.

 

Trapped once severe weather had passed..because of the debris.

 

After seeing the aftermath of the Alabama outbreak on TV that April night, on the side of his bed, with a note pad, the idea for the Tornadopod began to take shape.

 

“I woke up about 4:00 in the morning and started scribbling things down, and started thinking, well how could you do this? And the idea came up, what if you build a tornado shelter in the shape of an egg,” said Kouba.

 

With a different type of door that would allow occupants to get out of the shelter.

 

“You start to try to to open that door, you're pushing out against the debris, and you can’t get it open if there is three feet of debris on it,” said Kouba.

 

Moving from pencil and paper, to computer design, to 3D printed models, Kouba created his prototype.

 

“Using modern material science we can develop this at a price point, that is about half of what a normal storm shelter is today, that’ll hold 6 adults costs you,” said Kouba

 

Modern materials, and brute force engineering, even dropping a pickup truck on the interior cage.

 

After years of research, design and construction, the Tornadopod was ready for the missile testing needed for FEMA certification, a 2x4, traveling at 100 mph.

 

“Most of the people I've talked to have said, unless they’ve truly been through a tornado do not realize the power that a tornado unleashes,” said Kouba.

 

PART 2

 

Wes Kouba invented the Tornadopod after the devastating severe weather outbreak in Alabama in 2011.

 

After learning about the development of the Tornadopod, we traveled to to Plano to witness the missile testing needed for FEMA certification, and allow Kouba to continue his mission.

 

“Here people were being thrown about and dying when they didn’t have to,” said Kouba.

 

FEMA certification requires a tornado shelter to withstand three impacts from a 2x4 traveling at 100 mph.

 

A "witness screen” inside, a wooden frame with heavy paper attached, must also survive the test.

 

After five years of research and development Wes Kouba’s Tornadopod stands ready.

 

The tornadopod survived the impact and this was Kouba's reaction.

 

“Does it open? Nothing…nothing. Perfect. The paper is not broken. It worked! It worked, how ‘bout that…it worked. Wonderful,” said Kouba.

 

During the second shot, the outer shell and inner cage performed as designed, but there was a problem inside the Tornadopod.

 

“Second shot we shot on top of the hinge area and we did have a gasket come loose and it poked a hole in the witness screen which indicated a failure of the test,” said Andy Cost, Laboratory Manager, Intertek.

 

“It’s bitter sweet as we’ve passed the penetration tests which was the number one goal we had. The second thing, that I can fix, which is easy to do, when we hit close to this location this came loose, or it came loose before that and then hit here, so a piece of the rubber from the inside came through. That’s easily fixed, I can adhere that down with some adhesive and we’ll come back and retest that,” said Kouba.

 

Kouba went back to Intertek a few days later having glued down that rubber gasket and the Tornadopod earned its FEMA certification and will be going into production soon.


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