Former Lima man honored for tornado study

First Posted: 3/8/2015

Thank goodness for people who do research.

Thank goodness for Frank Lombardo, a 34-year-old native from Lima who has a doctorate degree in wind science and engineering from Texas Tech University.

His research could result in lives being saved during future tornadoes.

Lombardo may be too humble to talk about it that way, but that’s essentially how the U.S. Department of Commerce sees it. The agency was so impressed with Lombardo’s investigative work following the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, that it summoned him to Washington, D.C., earlier this year, where it presented him with a gold medal — the highest honorary award granted by the Secretary of Commerce.

Lombardo’s research centered on what happened in the late afternoon of that tragic May 22 day, when an EF-5 tornado with wind speeds estimated at 200-plus miles per hour cut a 13-mile long path through the southern part of the city of 50,000. The width of the tornado’s path measured from one-half to three-fourths of a mile.

He interviewed 160 people to see how they reacted to the warning systems, and looked at how buildings withstood the high winds.

“Most people didn’t take the warnings seriously until the tornado was right on top of them, making it too late for them to get to basements or safer areas. They were just able to get to the floor levels,” Lombardo said. “You have to understand, this is an area where there are a lot of false alarms, or when tornadoes do touch down, they do so in farm fields. It leads to complacency when the warning sirens go off.”

With that information documented, a case can be made for safer building standards involving new construction.

“Engineers are now looking at cost-effective designs. The first thing that happens to a structure during a tornado is that the roof fails. There are ways to make a roof more reliable during a tornado that are relatively inexpensive. They’re especially effective for EF-3 tornadoes or less, and that covers about 90 percent of all tornadoes.”

Lombardo did his research while working as a National Research Council associate at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaitherburg, Maryland. He currently is a research assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Indiana.

He’s a 1998 graduate of Lima Central Catholic High School and the son of Frank Lombardo and Julie Knodel.

ROSES AND THORNS: A group of folks shivering from the cold find a spot in the rose garden.

Rose: To the 70 members of the Celina Moose Lodge who helped raise money for Special Olympics by taking a “polar plunge” Saturday into the ice-cold water of Grand Lake St.Marys.

Rose: To Kaitlin Hawk, a senior at Elida High School. She was chosen as the 2015 Leader of Tomorrow winner from more than 100 nominees. The program is sponsored by The Lima News and Bluffton University.

Rose: To Mark and Rita Hershberger, of Lima. They obtained a $2,500 grant through Monsanto’s program, America’s Farmers Grow Communities, and donated the money to the Lima Samaritan House, which provides a shelter for homeless women and children.

Rose: To the Miller triplets — Alexus, Briana and Caylah. The children of Kristi and Bob Miller were born at 24 weeks in 2005 and given a 25 percent chance of survival. On Thursday, they’ll celebrate their 10th birthday.

Thorn: John W. Greenlee was arrested in St. Marys after he was caught with tools stolen earlier in Auglaize County. The owner of the tools saw items that looked like his being advertised on social media and notified the Sheriff’s Office, which made the arrest.

Thorn: Actions where military police at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima detained a Toledo Blade reporter and photographer resulted in the government settling a lawsuit for $18,000.

PARTING SHOT: A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it rains.

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