THIS IS SHAMEFUL…and it’s scary what engineers found…along the paths of two north Texas tornadoes.
Tim Marshall, a top forensic engineer and a widely respected severe weather meteorologist, inspected the damage (along with a National Weather Service survey team) from the Dec 26, 2015 tornadoes that clawed through Dallas and Ellis Counties, Texas. His findings revealed shocking examples of poor construction, from an elementary school to residential homes. The Dallas Morning News covered the story and stated, “Had students been inside [the school] when the storm hit, they clearly could have been injured”.
Marshall estimated the winds in the tornado striking the school near Red Oak, TX at only 90 mph; the building was designed to get very little damage in such winds, but it seems the very poor construction quality led to sections of it simply falling to pieces.
The shoddy workmanship consisted of walls not properly attached to the foundations, making it much easier for even a weaker tornado to cause severe building damage. Marshall said the walls were “just falling down like a house of cards”. He noted that “there was no connection [between] walls, there was no connection at the roof…..that’s not going to cut it in my book, and it won’t cut it in any [building] code I know”.
The slip-shod work wasn’t limited to the school, either. In every surveyed residential neighborhood, Marshall found major shortcomings that made buildings less safe and more likely to fail in even low-end twisters; definitely not up to code. We’re talking different contractors, different types of homes.
These findings call one to wonder if the practice of improper and substandard construction may be epidemic across north Texas, and perhaps elsewhere.
Laws have been beefed up in some parts of the country such as Florida, and more recently Joplin, Missouri and Moore, Oklahoma to make buildings less likely to succumb to lower-end tornado winds. While it’s prohibitively expensive to build homes to withstand EF5 or even EF4 tornadoes, structures able to withstand mid-range EF2 winds (125 mph) greatly limit the damage endured in most tornadoes, and how much debris they throw off. This is a big factor because the debris created by one structure is carried forward, adding additional damage projectiles for those downwind. This was clearly indicated from engineering studies after the 2011 Joplin catastrophe that killed 158 people.
Tornado winds vary within the funnel; for instance the EF4 (166 to 200 mph) wind in the Garland twister covered less than 20% of the damage path, and with about half of the damage path in the 110 mph range (EF0 and EF1) or less.
Hopefully this blog will call you to action; contact the authorities in your area, and push for better building inspection and stricter safety codes for storm winds.
Of course, a safe room or certified shelter is always the best place to hide during in any tornado threat, but some simply do not have this option.
Learn more about tornado history in “Twister Tales”, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format.