Resiliency measures for hurricanes can help with tornadoes

Damage on the edge of even strongest tornadoes can be reduced by adhering to hurricane resiliency standards

May 29, 2014 |
Tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Photo: Thilo Parg via Wikimedia Commons; Lice

Architect Butch Grimes, who examined the wreckage after a half-mile tornado struck Tuscaloosa, Ala., believes toughening building codes can reduce damage from twisters.

“The damage we had on the edges [of the tornado] could have been avoided with simple construction techniques,” Grimes told Scientific American.

The strongest hurricane winds on the coast can reach 180 mph, while the strongest tornadoes, category EF-5, have wind speeds of 200 to 250 mph. Tornadoes that strong are rare, with more common lower-category EF-2 or EF-3 tornadoes having wind speeds in the 100- to 150-mph range. The lower wind speeds, around hurricane strength, are most common on the edge of tornadoes.

“It’s probably not practical to design for EF-5 damage,” Grimes said. Weaker storms, however, can and should be designed for as coastal areas have been doing for years, he said.

Hurricane clips are one potential quick fix. In Alabama, the clips are required for buildings built within 5 miles of the Gulf of Mexico but remain optional farther inland. Reinforced windows could be another effective measure.


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