One year ago today, a deadly EF5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., making it the third most violent storm in less than 15 years to pummel the small city, which was struck by an EF5 tornado in 1999, and an EF4 in 2003.
Since the May 20, 2013, disaster this community has taken significant steps to rebuild stronger, safer and smarter than ever before.
On this solemn anniversary, our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones during this devastating storm. We also are mindful of the hundreds of people who were injured, and whose homes and businesses were damaged and destroyed.
Last year, the people of Moore once again demonstrated their strength by coming together and committing to rebuild their community.
While this is not an unusual response following a severe storm, the actions taken by Moore’s city leaders were unusual. Beyond promising to rebuild the same way in the same place, the Moore City Council took the unprecedented step of amending its building code to specifically address the impact of tornadoes.
Moore is the first city in the country to adopt tornado-specific building code provisions, including the use of:
- Hurricane clips or framing anchors to tie the house together more effectively;
- Continuous wood structural panel sheathing on all exterior walls to strengthen the home, which must be attached with ring shank nails that provide considerably stronger fastening than smooth nails or staples; and
- Garage doors that are rated to withstand winds up to 135 mph.
All of these requirements are part of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s Fortified Home program, which establishes superior construction and retrofit standards for new and existing homes. These requirements have been proven to strengthen homes during severe high wind weather events, and IBHS engineers believe it is possible to greatly reduce the damage caused by EF0 and EF1 tornadoes by implementing these standards as Moore has done.
While these requirements won’t save a home in the direct path of an EF4 or EF5 tornado, the stronger standards will help narrow the path of damage caused by a tornado. Homes built to the new code that are located on the peripheral edges of a high level tornado or near the path of a low level tornado, should definitely experience less damage because they will be properly tied together and more resistant when high winds try to tear them apart.
IBHS urges other jurisdictions in the Central Plains, Midwest, and Southeast to follow Moore’s lead. The evidence is clear that communities with strong, well-enforced building codes have a higher level of community resilience, which means lower disaster recovery costs overall, reduced government post-disaster aid, and most importantly fewer lives lost.
Rochman is president and CEO of IBHS, a nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry.