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UA Researchers Study Tornado Damage in Oklahoma

Dr. Andrew Graettinger, a University of Alabama researcher, examines a safe room that survived the tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013.
University of Alabama
Dr. Andrew Graettinger, a University of Alabama researcher, examines a safe room that survived the tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013.

Alabama researchers are looking into which kinds of structures can best survive tornadoes.  Investigators went to Moore, Oklahoma and found that storm shelters survived when other buildings didn’t.  University of Alabama associate professor Andrew Graettinger was a lead author of the study.  He says they not only looked at the damage in Moore but also at the damage in Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa.  And in Moore, they found most shelters survived the damage.

Andrew Graettinger: “Both above ground and below ground shelters performed very well.  The house could have been completely gone and the shelter was perfectly fine.  So it was very encouraging to see.  These shelters are a really necessary item to have in people’s homes.” 

Graettinger says homeowners in Alabama could benefit from the findings.

Graettinger: “The first thing that people need to do is consider getting a safe room or a storm shelter retrofitted in their existing home.  If there’s an opportunity and you’re building a new home, you may want to consider some of the design features that go on along the Gulf Coast to protect against hurricanes.  Have those implemented in your house in a tornado-prone area.” 

The list of precautions includes metal clips and straps to hold walls, ceilings, and floors in place.  The study also found garage doors were often one of the first things to be ripped apart.  That could create pressurization that leads to roofs being torn off.    The study was made possible by the National Science Foundation Rapid Response Grant for Exploratory Research.

You can see the full study here.

Jeremy Loeb is a reporter and former APR host of Morning Edition. He joined the station in December of 2013 and stayed with us until November 2014.
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