In March of 2014, Moore became the first city in America to adopt a tornado-specific building code to ensure homes can withstand storms of EF-2 or greater. Within months of the 2013 disaster, hundreds had begun to rebuild their homes and their lives. Unfortunately, this desire to quickly move on and recover meant that their homes were not built according to the new, tornado-resistant building code. As a result, the Moore housing market is primed to support a massive tornado retrofit industry.
Rather than rush into a frenzy of tighter regulations immediately after the storm, Moore took the time to develop codes to address specific inadequacies that needed to be amended. According to Elizabeth Jones, Moore’s community development director, “In an ideal situation, you would be able to have the time directly after the event to come up with all of these things so everyone can be build back stronger and safer.” The research period was essential, Jones adds, because “we don’t want to make codes just for the sake of making codes. We want to be able to address real problems that exist out there and try to make them better.”
Of the 600+ building permits issued for rebuilding efforts in the storm-damaged areas, only 152 are being built to the new standards. This leaves more than 400 homes built to the older standards. In a perfect world, these homes would last 50-60 years. But as Tim Marshall, civil engineer for the Dallas-based Haag Engineering that consulted on the new code explains, “they’re going to last 50, 60, 80 years or until the next tornado comes along.”
However, all is not lost for new homeowners whose houses were built to the old standard. Tornado retrofitting will help make the structure and exterior finish tornado-resistant. Impact-resistant windows and reinforced doors, especially reinforced garage doors, can really make a difference when a home gets battered by storms. Door portal frames should be well-anchored and well-bolted. Gable walls should be braced to withstand high winds. The vertical attic joists should be reinforced with horizontal 2”x4”’s secured with 3” wood screws. Metal “hurricane strap” anchor plates and bolts will keep the walls together and anchored to the roof. The entire house should have a well-sealed sheath to keep moisture and debris out. Tornado retrofits are relatively straightforward, if time-consuming, and the increase durability brought by retrofitting will pay dividends during the next major tornado.