Tuesday, December 7

Town in Oklahoma Becomes First in U.S. to Upgrade Home Building Codes for Tornadoes

Moore, Oklahoma has been ravaged by EF5 tornadoes that leveled the entire community not once, but twice. Many residents still remember the devastation of a May 3, 1999 tornado, and the city is still trying to recover from one that touched down on May 20 of last year. In an attempt to limit the damage caused by tornadoes, Moore City Council members unanimously approved new, strict residential building codes that will make homes better able to withstand the treacherous weather.

The 14 changes approved by the council make it the first city in the United States to take such action, so it is an historic move. The list of changes will include hurricane clips or framing anchors, continuous plywood bracing, wind-resistant garage doors, and fortifications that will allow homes to withstand winds of up to 135 mph. While new codes won’t necessarily allow homes to stand up to deadly EF5 tornadoes, they should hold strong in lesser storms or on the fringes of the monsters.

“We have seen from this tornado, progressive construction techniques that can survive strong winds. We can learn from this devastating event to build stronger homes and neighborhoods across the United States — and it starts in Moore,” Mayor Glen Lewis said..

The last tornado did more than $2 billion in damage, and though there might be an additional cost — albeit minimal — for homeowners, it should prove to be quite worthwhile should another tornado hit. Marvin Haworth, a member of the committee tasked with developing the regulations estimated that they will cost homeowners another $1,500 to $2,500 more per home.

“It’s a very small expense for the homeowner. We’re talking one or two cents per dollar on a home,” noted Dr. Chris Ramseyer, associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

One thing new builders might have to consider is that, if they want to add a deck or other addition to their home, they might need to keep new codes in mind. Homeowners who want wooden decks traditionally choose pressure treated wood rails and balusters, which are a common and practical choice. New regulations might cause them to look for other materials and design techniques to alleviate safety concerns.

“There will be more tornadoes. The May 20 tornado won’t be the last. We thought the 1999 tornado was it, and we were wrong,” Councilman Terry Cavnar said. Once the new building codes are enforced, hopefully, the community will be better able to handle them.

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