It is known that a direct hit from an F5 (or EF5) tornado can level virtually any home, any wooden-frame construction. And it is not surprising. After all, the wind speed can reach more than 200 mph.
In the aftermath of a tornado like the one in City of Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, which besides the considerable material losses, has also produced irreplaceable loss of life, the question that arises is:
Can be built, a wood-frame house to withstand a direct hit of a F5 tornado?
Yes indeed, it is the duty of architects, designers, building material manufacturers and home builders to conceive, design and build resistant and safe houses or at least to design and make an inside room large and strong enough to shelter a whole family and can withstand an F5 tornado. In fact, these regulations should be in building codes, especially for areas exposed to such disasters, so-called “tornado alleys”. Moreover, it is also, the duty of local authorities to impose new regulations and to make them mandatory.
It is curious that nothing has changed in the perception builders and local authorities from Oklahoma, after the disaster from 1999. After all, Oklahoma City is in the path of tornadoes, but the new homes continue to be built after the old methods.
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Basically, there was no improvement in the construction of new housing after the devastating tornado in 1999. Too few new constructions built after this terrible tornado, have been secured using bolted plates. It was proved that these plates can increase significantly resistance to powerful storms. Builders have continued to use the same old methods with pins and nails, which actually failed in 1999, not to mention that only 6 homes of 40 new ones had safe rooms or inside shelters.
These are data collected from a study done by “American Meteorological Society” in 2002. Why homeowners who are living in Tornado Alley are not willing to pay for their home upgrade?
There are too few who are considering extra costs related to these upgrades, the vast majority considering that the risk is too small to merit this expense. But nothing is too expensive when it comes to protecting a human life.
And after all, many experts affirm that inexpensive construction techniques can save many wood-frame buildings. Among them it can be mentioned the use of metal straps and connectors that can strengthen greatly the connections, tying the walls of the house to the foundation, preventing in this way the lifting of the house. These metal straps and connectors can also be used successfully to tie the house walls to the roof.
These simple steps can save many wood-frame homes that are in the path of a violent storm, but probably will not be able to withstand a direct hit of a F5 tornado. Nothing can replace a concrete structure.
However more important is the protection of life. The creation of safe rooms inside the new homes should be a mandatory rule for those who live in Tornado Alley.