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Can Homes Be Made To Withstand A Tornado?

By Mike Wheatley | May 12, 2011

Just last month, hundreds of people died and thousands of properties across the south were destroyed by the ferocious tornados that wreaked havoc in the area.

Now, people are beginning to ask if it’s possible to build tornado-resistant homes.

Thousands of properties were damaged by tornadoes last month

Tornadoes. Courtesy of Tornado Facts

According to Larry Tanner, who works as a structural engineer at the Wind Engineering Research Center in Texas Tech University, the average US home simply doesn’t stand a chance once it falls into the path of a tornado.

“The strongest winds that most homes can withstand are around 90 mph,” said Tanner. “After that, they all pretty much get blown to pieces.”

The average wind speed generated by a tornado whips up to between 130mph to 160mph say the National Weather Service.

Winds reaching 90mph are at the very low end of the scale when it comes to tornadoes, according to Tanner.

Extensive damage caused by tornadoes

Tornado damage. Courtesy of Wikimedia

When compared to other atmospheric phenomena, tornadoes are incredibly destructive. A telling statistic comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which says that since 1953 57% of all catastrophic losses covered by insurance were due to tornadoes.

Current building standards in the US simply aren’t designed to withstand a tornado impact.

The average US home is reckoned to have a lifespan of around 50 years, and the chances of it being hit by a tornado in that time are incredibly small.

One place where building codes are more stringent is in Florida, due to the much bigger chance of them having to withstand a hurricane.

In order to make a home “tornado proof”, it would have to be made “missile resistant”, say the folks at the wind research lab. It would have to withstand “being penetrated by flying debris, and any connections between doors, windows, etc., would have to be able to stand up to 250mph of wind pressure.”

A tornado shelter is most recommended

Tornado shelter. Courtesy of Texas Shelters

This means that homes would have to be made seven and a half times stronger than they are now. According to engineers, it simply isn’t practical to build a brick or wood home that can stand up to a tornado.

So what’s the alternative?

“An underground or in-house tornado shelter is the most practical option,” says Tanner. “That is practical, and it provides you with somewhere to go in case of an emergency.”

As well as a shelter, high-quality roofing shingles can be a real benefit, say experts. Poor quality roofing shingles are easily ripped off by strong winds, usually in a matter of seconds, and it is here where a home is weakest. Once the roof goes, the rest of the home is exposed, and it can easily be blown apart from the inside out.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
  • 9 comments on “Can Homes Be Made To Withstand A Tornado?”

    1. I do have a tornado proof house, please contact and left your number for further information,it will be perfectly stands for EF5 without damage

    2. This house will withstand any tornado and cheap to build. I am looking for investors.

    3. For-centuries, humans in the world have been hit by natural disaster or disease. Since were are an intellectual breed of primates,and scientific, you would think that, certain developed government's, in the housing industry, would not leave everything to "natural selection" or, "survival of the fittest." While we seek to call upon faith in natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, Tunisians, typhoons and monsoons;it is with respect for human life that we build safer and more durable homes. In areas such as Joplin and Tuscaloosa,homes that are grouped together in terms of buildings with hollow bricks, cement and steel beams that are asymmetrical will help people protect themselves.Single detached wood structured homes historically,can't work there! Having mandatory underground safe proof shelters and disaster proof automotive(s), in these areas can diminished the total loss of lives and property. We need not be cavalier, and-leave our social life to chance; as we are not in the lower spectrum of the Animal Kingdom.(Opinion.)

    4. There are some houses that are affordable, energy efficient, and tornado, hurricane, earthquake, and fire proof.
      Look it up before you write an article saying they are not practical.

      1. I'm just reporting what the experts say! Would you care to give me an example of an indestructible house?

    5. I have seen other countries especially in the Midlle east and Europe that use hollow blocks complete with concrete posts and steel rebars. I wonder if would that work instead of bricks or fortified cement.

    6. Hello,i am a regular house contractor in the Philippines with a regular crew of 7.Many,if not most of the people worldwide knows that my country is located in the typhoon (hurricane) belt of Asia.In fact the Philippines withstands about 27 to 35 typhoon storms a year with only minimum damages when it comes to residential houses blown or smashed by winds gusting from a force of 70kph to about 190kph if it is a super storm.Now,the standing question is,Amd i qoute " can a house be built that can withstand a tornado? ".My answer is yes!!!,and i am basing this to our experience.I have seen in actuality how a house is being built in the US in Canada and in Australia,and ai can actualy say that it is very different in terms of toughness and durability when it comes to how strong it can be under duress to a tornado wind gusting to a,lets say,90 to 160kph.I can safely say that an ordinary concrete house built in the Philippines is 5 to 8 times more tougher and durable than an ordinary house in the US.The secret?,the US uses bricks while we,uses hollow blocks complete with concrete posts and steel rebars.

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