The peculiar lifting forces generated by tornadoes are different from those of straight-line winds and much more destructive, says Fred Haan, a mechanical engineering professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Mechanical in Indiana. However, solutions that would allow buildings to withstand such enormous stress need not be costly, according to Haan, who has studied the subject for 15 years. Two-dollar steel brackets at key connections are one answer, "so for a few hundred dollars on a house, you make a real significant change in how resistant it is to having its roof torn off," Haan said.

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