The typical suburb is no match for a tornado. Few trees have reached maturity so there’s nothing to absorb the wind energy before it reaches the home. And the houses themselves are drywall, plywood, and 2 x 4s. Cathedral celings are big these days. Knock out a wall, and the ceiling comes down. Suburban homes, when it comes to tornadoes, are the new mobile homes.
In 2005, an F3 tornado hit Utica, Illinois, killing 8 people. Afterwards, insurance companies and homebuilders worked on a better design according to a Chicago area TV station.
The walls are eight inches thick and consist of a pair of two-and-a-half-inch reinforced concrete sides, separated by three inches of high density foam. In laboratory tests, the difference in durability between this concrete sandwich-style and typical building materials is quite dramatic.
The stronger house, according to the story, costs about 10 percent more.
In Canada, the “Three Little Pigs Project” has created a lab for testing the ability of suburban homes to withstand wind.
It was created after 300 homes were destroyed in a tornado. Investigators found that one of the main reasons for the damage was the builders didn’t use a washer on bolts and nuts that anchored the frame of the house to the foundation. Most of the injuries in tornadoes, the project found, occurs when the house is lifted up and then smashed to the ground.
Still, when you look at the amazing video in Oklahoma Saturday when a tornado hit a barn, you realize it’s going to take more than washers.