LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Most homeowners know the feeling of unease that consumes you when a tornado warning sweeps across the bottom of your television screen.
The questions that cross your mind concern safety and well-being. There are a lot of “what ifs”.
Uncertainty is a familiar feeling for those in Kentuckiana who experienced the 2012 tornado outbreak. Ten years ago, these families were heading for the safest place in their home. Some survived, but others did not.
The National Weather Service (NWS) is clear in its message: having a tornado plan is a necessity.
“The first thing that’s going to happen is your roof is going to come off,” said NWS meteorologist Brian Schoettmer.
Schoettmer walked through a Louisville home with its landlord, Logan Dunman, to discuss the proper security plan.
“Yeah, that room probably looks like your best bet,” he told Dunman of his unfinished basement. “The only concern in that area is that little window right there. I think if you could get under the stairwell that would give you the most protection.”
The NWS meteorologist carefully examined each room and described to Dunman what would happen if he found himself there during a tornado. It is a multi-level house with a basement and an upper floor. Part of the basement is unfinished and the two agreed that the solid concrete foundation in this area is the safest place during a weather event.
Schoettmer pointed to a few upstairs areas that are last resort options. The bathroom and a closet are both without windows or exterior walls. Schoettmer told Dunman that’s a good thing, but because the roof is the first thing to come off a house in a tornado, it’s still dangerous in a tornado above 2 on the Fujita scale. improved (EF-Scale) .
At the point of an EF-2 tornado, the roof can be torn off.
“If you’re on the top floor, then you’ll be exposed to the outside,” he said.
Several others were also at Dunman’s on Monday. Nathan Grimes, structural engineer at Renaissance Design Build Incorporated, spoke with the homeowner about renovating his home.
But it’s almost impossible. Dunman’s house is solid with a concrete foundation, but it is wood-framed. Grimes said there wasn’t much that could be done that could improve the integrity of wood-frame homes.
“These are just sitting there,” Grimes said, pointing to the unfinished basement joists.
The joists attached to the beams of the house are nailed, which means that the connection is made with only one nail. It was about Grimes.
“They have a nail running through them diagonally in the seal plate,” he told Dunman. “Not the most secure connection.”
The structural engineer recommended reinforcing the connection of the joists and beams with Simpson Strong Ties, commonly known as Hurricane Clips. The clips, or ties, act as an anchor for the frame of the house. It tightly secures the timber frame connections to hold the house together in high wind situations.
Dunman can easily improve connections in his unfinished basement with Hurricane Ties. They only cost a few dollars at most hardware stores. However, strengthening connections throughout the house would be quite expensive.
Tearing out drywall and a lot of attic work on the roof would be time consuming and expensive. However, Grimes said the upgraded connections just in the unfinished basement might not protect the whole house, but could mean the difference between life and death in the event of a massive tornado.
“God forbid a tornado to happen, if you try to prevent that and maintain the integrity of your home, that would help you, yes,” he told Dunman.
Also along the promenade from Dunman’s house is Bud Ray, the owner of Ray Southeastern Design, who has built a number of homes. He started suggesting storm shelters in all the basements he builds.
“Typically, you can put a storm shelter under the porch, but you’ll have to do that during the planning phase of construction,” Ray said.
That’s bad news for current homeowners, because adding a concrete storm shelter isn’t easy or cost-effective.
However, Bud encourages Dunman to consider this if he ever decides to build in the future.
“It’s eye-opening and it’s good knowledge to know in the back of your mind what you can do and what you can’t do,” Dunman told WDRB News after the visit.
He admitted there’s work most homeowners should be doing, and he’s looking for ways to secure his home after those conversations.
Dunman’s sister lives in Mayfield, Kentucky, where an EF-4 tore apart in December. His sister and home were unharmed, but it opened Dunman’s eyes to tornado safety in the future.
“It’s something I’m going to think about and look at because it could make the difference in saving your life,” he said.
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