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Ok I have a question out tornadoes.


Generally speaking we don't seem to get them here like you do in some of the US states on a seemingly regular basis.


We see the devastation on a massive scale with high death toll figures, and pictures that look like we might get when say Darwin was hit by a cyclone many years ago.


Someone asked me the question....after seeing the pictures - "why the hell to the yanks continue to build their houses out of sticks in tornado prone areas?


It seems when we see the destruction as tho, there's not a piece of timber left that's longer than 6 inches (and its all softwood, presumably some kind of maritime pine, or oregon or cedar or something)?.


The reason they asked this question is that largely we don't see a lot of timber framed homes here nowadays!


Years ago when our houses were timber framed they were all hardwood frames and typically don't just shatter apart the way we see in the pictures that come out of storm ravaged US tornado towns.


Nowday's just about all our houses are double clay brick!


Sure we still get the occasional cyclone and also even small versions of a tornado - we call a twister or "cock eyed bob"and these do go thru built up residential areas - but usually the worst we see is maybe a roof torn off here or there, some fences flattened and a few big trees uprooted.


So - we tend to scratch our heads and winder why houses built in these tornadoe prone areas arent built from double clay brick like ours?


Do you not have sources of river clay and a nearby brick works to fire clay bricks (i think you guys might call them cinder blocks).


Or - could you not build houses in these areas from concrete reinforced tilt panel walls?


It just seems crays too us that we have been seeing these pictures out of the USA every year since I was a kid, of houses destroyed by tornadoes and there's nothing left but matchstick wood...and so everyone downunder watching the news scratches their heads and says out loud - "damned dumbassed yanks - why don't they re-build out of something that will withstand a tornado like bricks and mortar or concrete & steel etc" so I thought - well screw it I'll be the idiot and ask the question - why don't you?


Is it because the lumber is so cheap and plentiful out of neighboring Canada that you cannot afford a claybrick and steel house or concrete tilt panel?


Lastly - why no concrete reinforced tornado shelter under the house in a cellar or basement, that the families inside these houses can flee too, in the event of a tornado?


I'm sure there is likely a reason we haven't thought of - its just that building standards between our two countries are so different too each other that we find it hard to understand the reasoning behind why you all do the things the way that you do - I[m sure there is a sound reason for it - but admit that when the question was asked of me I couldn't think of the rational answer so figured to ask here!




Anyone notice the timbers destroyed but the small clay brick walls are largely untouched?


A tornado in Moore, OK on 3 May 1999 demolished this house (foreground) down to a short pile of debris on and around the foundation, with no walls standing. In order for this scene to be rated F5, the debris must have been swept away, leaving behind evidence that the house was well-attached to its slab. [The brick house in the left background suffered F3 damage, with a mixture of inner and outer walls removed.] This tornado caused an immense amount of F4 damage on its path through the southern portion of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, and several locales of F5 damage.




Fairly atypical Aussie double clay brick & clay or concrete tile roofed 4 bedroom x 2 bathroom home/cottage!



Atypical fired clay brick



Concrete tilt panel construction



Steel trussed roofs


Like I said - these types of building methods are common here and we just don't see the use of timber in the quantities that we see you guys using in the USA in the domestic housing construction industry..


When the danger of tornados is so high - is there a reason these different building technology's aren't employed more in the USA tornado prone areas for residential construction?


We kind of wonder why your household insurance company's don't insist on it the way ours do?


Sorry if it's a dumb question - but people here wanna know is all!



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I survived a huge tornado when I was a kid that picked up an entire large brick Baptist Church with a hundred or so people as I remember-there was hardly a brick left behind. Brick is not going to protect against a direct hit of any significant tornado, it might withstand the surrounding winds near the tornado better but not a hit. Besides, brick and concrete panels have an insulating value of essentially zero in addition to being expensive to build. Most people either build a stick built wall inside them to get back the insulating qualities and to have channels for plumbing and wiring or have to spray foam to get insulation. Masonry buildings are also very subject to complete failure in earthquakes without expensive mods. It's not quite so simple as it may seem. The recent outbreaks of tornadoes have broken all recorded weather records-this is not normal weather for us although it may become the new normal.

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Thanks for that Tim - it makes some sense.


We don't have the temperature extremes that you do - no snow for example (but it does get hot here)!


We also largely don't get seismic movement much - not like say NZ the shakey isles as they are called - largely i guess because we aren't on the pacific rim of fire tectonic plate boundaries directly.


Double Brick with a cavity takes a while too warm up and near the coast as most of our settlement is - we get an afternoon sea breeze to cool down all the clay brick and tile homes.


Typically ceilings are insulated often with glass wool batts to help keep warm in winter and cool in summer. because of our Mediterranean climate we mostly don't have centralized heating, and typically no basements / cellar.


I guess the environmental conditions are different enough to explain the differences in domestic cottage construction materials.


We started building these same Mediterranean type climate houses in our northern *(closer too the equator) sub tropics but they didn't fare as well in the cyclone prone areas - so more strict building codes saw vast improvements in resilience to strong winds!


One beach front house I lived in a cyclone prone area, was built of concrete block and steel and rated for cat 5 cyclone.


My family and I sat out a cat 4 direct hit in 2007, winds approaching 200 mph and the only "damage" if you could call it that was water being pushed thru the window frames and over the window sills as it drove in horizontal off the ocean.


It had a below ground concrete cellar arrangement that we could have sheltered in and we were tempted a couple times to do so via an internal stairway as we felt the place seem to "move" with the howling wind gusts occasionally but it passed eventually, and we suffered no damage - our vehicles secured in the underground car park avoided being sand blasted - some of the neighbors cars had no paint left down to bare metal with wind driven sand off the beach and ocean front dunes system.


Many of the windows in the beach front houses were sand blasted opaque so they could no longer be seen thru - ours had shutters that protected them.


It would be interesting to see a house design construction "standard to make them more tornado proof.


I do accept that wind sheer strengths etc in a tornado being a lot more concentrated than a cyclone would be magnitudes higher than what we might experience in a cat 5 cyclone.


A tornado proof building code for these areas would seem to make sense to me if your very life depends on it - at the minimum a survival shelter under the house maybe.


I guess we will be seeing matchsticks wood house remains for a few more years to come on our TV news screens - thanks for taking the tme to point out the obvious that I missed - least now I can answer the question next time its asked.



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