“We don’t fire-proof our homes because the risk of having a fire is high or its likelihood of occurring is high – we do fire-proofing because the catastrophic results of fire are high.”
Tornado-proof homes? Up to 85 percent can be spared, expert says
Homes in the direct path of the monster tornado that roared through Oklahoma City suburbs Monday were all but certain to be destroyed. Yet inexpensive construction techniques could have kept up to 85 percent of the area’s damaged houses standing, according to a civil engineer.
The trick is already common along the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast — the use of clips and straps to keep the walls bolted to the roof and the foundation, explained Andrew Graettinger, a civil engineer at the University of Alabama. These parts cost about $1 each.
“You need several hundred of them in the house, but it is not anything drastic, it is not a humongous expense, it is relatively inexpensive,” he told NBC News.
( And for about $3,000 a storm safe room can be added too. )
(Etc. – lots of nifty info)
The total cost is the equivalent of installing granite countertops or a whirlpool tub, which many homeowners opt for without a second thought to make their homes look nice and raise their value.
Here is a photo of one type of straps that could have helped protect homes –
(from this entry – )
Concerns over feasibility of tornado-proof homes
That’s the route Lloyd Parker and his wife, Janie, took after they lost almost everything in the Joplin twister. Parker says his wife, who suffered a punctured lung and three broken ribs in the storm, insisted on the safe room. It has 8-inch-thick concrete walls with reinforced steel rods and a steel door that can withstand almost 300 mph winds.
‘‘Short of an atom bomb,’’ he says, ‘‘nothing will get into it. The whole house could fall down and we’re going to be fine.’’
They equipped the room with cable TV and recliners. Parker and his wife hunkered down there during a spare of recent storms and stayed informed by watching The Weather Channel.
‘‘It cost $4,000 to $5,000 but it was worth it,’’ Parker says. ‘‘I would recommend everybody do it.’’
(etc. – lots more great information in this article – well worth reading.)
My Note –
It is absolutely a fact that –
1. There will be extreme weather events in the United States beyond today.
It is also a fact that –
2. Homes, buildings, commercial structures, many public buildings, schools, hospitals and government buildings are not built to provide safety to human lives during these extreme weather events, including tornadoes, floods, storm surges, and hurricanes.
So, my question is this – how much is human life worth if a family of four aren’t considered worthy of a $5,000 outlay for extra hurricane straps throughout the structure and a safe room or storm cellar or basement or appropriate underground storm shelter? In Moore, Okahoma where students died in the elementary school during the tornado, there was no safe room and at the time the school was hit by the severe weather, only a few students and staff were inside. During a normal school day – over 600 students could have been there along with teachers and staff. And, there would have been nowhere for them to have gone for safety. In Oklahoma, the news have reported that about 200 schools have a safe room – 1700 don’t have any safe room for the protection of those precious lives during any scale of tornado.
There are states throughout the Midwest tormented by tornadoes and Southern states with high fatalities during these tornadoes that are common there as well – and yet, no building requirement for any buildings including homes and schools to have safe rooms, basements or storm cellars. Yet the pay-off of these investments are yielded over the twenty plus years of the life of the school along with the protection of human life during a multitude of incidents that could impact the thousands of students and staff who are completely vulnerable in these environments. What use is a new track and field facility or stadium bleachers in a school which has a comparable cost, when at any given one moment during a tornado, the entire student body can be left hideously maimed for the rest of their lives or dead simply because there is no safe room and the structures cannot withstand a tornado?
Here are some details of the likelihood of violent tornadoes in the United States and details about the deaths and injuries that are known to have already happened during these events –
A short history of violent tornadoes in the United States (May 21, 2013)
Only about 0.1 percent of all tornadoes are EF5s. Here’s the National Climatic Data Center: “On average over 1000 tornadoes hit the U.S. each year, [and] 20 can be expected to be violent and possibly one might be incredible (EF5).”
Tornadoes in the United States – (Wikipedia)
Tornadoes are more common in the United States than in any other country. The United States receives more than 1,200 tornadoes annually—four times the amount seen in Europe. Violent tornadoes—those rated EF4 or EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale—occur more often in the United States than in any other country.
Most tornadoes in the United States occur east of the Rocky Mountains. The Great Plains, the Midwest, the Mississippi Valley and the southern United States are all areas that are vulnerable to tornadoes. They are relatively rare west of the Rockies and are also less frequent in the northeastern states. Tornado Alley is a colloquial term for an area particularly prone to tornadoes. There is no officially defined ‘Tornado Alley’ – at its broadest this area stretches from Texas to Canada with its core centered on Oklahoma, Kansas and northern Texas. Another highly significant region – colloquially known as Dixie Alley – is the southern United States and particularly the northern and central parts of Alabama and Mississippi. Florida is one of the most tornado prone states. However, Florida tornadoes only rarely approach the strength of those that occur elsewhere.
Nebraska is fifth overall for sheer numbers of tornadoes, while Indiana has had 88 violent tornado reports from the 1950–2006 period, more than any state except Oklahoma. Iowa reported 83, almost as many as Texas.
According to NCDC figures for the 1950 to 2006 period, Mississippi reported 1,787 tornadoes, followed by Arkansas (1,644), Louisiana (1,608), Alabama (1,579), Georgia (1,324), North Carolina (1,042), Tennessee (892), South Carolina (819), Kentucky (710) and Virginia (565).
NCDC figures for the period 1950 to 2006 show that Pennsylvania reported 697 tornadoes, followed by New York State (358), Maryland (269), Massachusetts (153), New Jersey (144), Maine (101), New Hampshire (86), Connecticut (82), Delaware (58), Vermont (37), Rhode Island (9), and the District of Columbia (1). The worst tornado outbreak in the Northeast occurred in Pennsylvania on May 31, 1985, and produced the only F5 tornado in the region to date.
The United States receives over 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries associated with tornadoes each year. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, most tornado deaths are caused by people not following instructions on what to do the right way. They also mention that some people are not even warned that a tornadic storm is coming, while others get a warning, but do not believe that a tornado will hit their area. In 2007, the most recent year for which data was last available, 81 people were killed by tornadoes in the United States.
US Annual Tornado Death Tolls, 1875-present – (NOAA)
Updated 23 May 2013 to include data through 2012
Note – this link includes all of the recorded deaths from tornadoes back to 1875, though I’m including only the more recent figures. It does not indicate the number of injuries or property damages.
UPDATED May 23, 2011
The Deadliest Years (NY Times 2011)
At least 122 people were killed in a tornado outbreak on May 22, bringing the year’s total to nearly 500 and making it the deadliest year since 1953, when 519 people were killed.
NY Times Interactive showing locations of tornadoes in blue dots with number of fatalities shown for each year – make sure and push the play button at the top left of the map to see each year from 1950 through 2011. It can be paused at any year and see specific years or move the time chart marker above the map and see each year individually.
Regions of the world with increased likelihood of experiencing tornadoes – (NOAA)
In terms of absolute tornado counts, the United States leads the list, with an average of over 1,000 tornadoes recorded each year. A distant second is Canada, with around 100 per year. Other locations that experience frequent tornado occurrences include northern Europe, western Asia, Bangladesh, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, South Africa and Argentina. In fact, the United Kingdom has more tornadoes, relative to its land area, than any other country. Fortunately, most UK tornadoes are relatively weak.
Tornado climatology – (Wikipedia)
The United States averaged 1,274 tornadoes per year in the last decade, along with Canada reporting nearly 100 annually in the southern regions.  However, the UK probably has most tornadoes per area per year, 0.14 per 1000 km². Also the Netherlands have relatively many tornadoes per area. Also in absolute number of events, ignoring area, the UK experiences more tornadoes (excluding waterspouts) than any other European country.
Tornadoes kill an average of 52 people per year in Bangladesh, the most in the world. This is due to their high population density, poor quality of construction, lack of tornado safety knowledge, as well as other factors. Other areas of the world that have frequent tornadoes include South Africa, parts of Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil, as well as portions of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and far eastern Asia.
The United States averaged 1,274 tornadoes per year in the last decade. April 2011 saw the most tornadoes ever recorded for any month in the US National Weather Service‘s history, 875; the previous record was 542 in one month. It has more tornadoes yearly than any other country and reports more violent (F4 and F5) tornadoes than anywhere else.
Some people mistakenly believe that tornadoes only occur in the countryside. This is hardly the case. While it is true that the plains states are the most tornado-prone places in the nation, it should be noted that tornadoes have been reported in every U.S state, including Alaska and Hawaii. One likely reason why tornadoes are so common in the central U.S is because this is where Arctic air first collides with warm tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico where the cold front has not been “weakened” yet. As it heads further east, however, it is possible for the front to lose its strength as it travels over more warm air. Therefore, tornadoes are not as common on the East Coast as they are in the Midwest. However, they have happened on rare occasion, such as the F2 twister that struck the northern suburbs of New York City on July 12, 2006, or the EF2 twister in parts of Brooklyn, New York on August 8, 2007.
The state with the highest number of strong tornadoes per unit area is Oklahoma. The neighboring state of Kansas is another particularly notorious tornado state. It records the most F4 and F5 tornadoes in the country.
The deadliest tornado in American history was invisible. In 1925, the Tri-State Tornado ravaged a mile-wide path for 220 miles across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana at 60 to 70 mph—twice the forward speed of the average tornado. It lacked the classic funnel cloud, but the damage was catastrophic: nearly 2,000 people were injured, property losses totaled more than $16 million, and over 700 people died. This event also holds the known record for most tornado fatalities in a single city or town: at least 234 in Murphysboro, Illinois.