Moore Officials Delay Vote on Upgrading Building Codes for Tornadoes

  • Joe Wertz
Civil engineer Tim Marshall says many of the homes destroyed by the May 20 Moore tornado were nailed to the slab instead of bolted.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Civil engineer Tim Marshall says many of the homes destroyed by the May 20 Moore tornado were nailed to foundation slabs and weren't bolted down.

The Moore City Council on Tuesday delayed a vote on an ordinance that would strengthen construction standards to help reduce damage from tornadoes.

The measure would modify the city’s residential building code by “adding requirements for bolting and fasteners to the foundation, top plate, bottom plate, doors and windows, and truss to wall connections,” according to the council’s meeting agenda.

Oklahoma’s state and local building codes don’t address tornadoes. And Timothy Marshall, a meteorologist and a civil engineer at Haag Engineering in Dallas, says Oklahoma’s construction standards aren’t tough enough. He said the same thing in 1999, when an F-5 tornado ripped through Moore. State and local officials didn’t listen then, Marshall told StateImpact, and he doesn’t expect that to change, even after the May’s devastating EF-5.

State building code officials and their local counterparts in Moore say they’re considering toughening construction standards, but authorities are worried about increasing home-building costs.

But Marshall says requiring metal clips and plates to strengthen residential wall, ceiling and foundation connections would be inexpensive.

“Bolts and clips and straps in the proper place… $500-$1,000 on a house, that’s all,” he says.

Moore’s Development Services Manager Shane Speegle told StateImpact he thinks the city’s construction standards are likely to be upgraded. But Mayor Glenn Lewis is planning to meet with local builders before moving forward with any changes, the Norman Transcript’s Joy Hampton reports:

Some local homebuilders already add tornado-safe features to homes and have since 1999, but none of those homes were in the path of the storm, Community Development Director Elizabeth Jones said. The May 20 tornado hit the core of Moore, which is comprised mostly of older neighborhoods.

Because building codes have changed over the years, an ordinance was adopted defining the tornado area and establishing minimum building standards. The new ordinance is designed to cover this tornado and any future tornadoes regarding upgrading codes for a rebuild.