Can a tornado destroy a concrete building?

Tornados are one of the scariest natural occurrences. Whether you experience them or only the aftermath, the damage they cause can take decades to fix. So, can a tornado destroy a concrete building?

Yes, a tornado can destroy a concrete building, especially if in its direct path. But concrete is the strongest building material against it. It’s important to prepare for a tornado, and you can do that by inspecting your home, finding the safest place to hide, and having a disaster supply kit.

However, you can build a tornado-proof house using reinforced concrete. The only issue is it’s too costly to build and maintain. Here, we discuss how dangerous a tornado can be, whether concrete buildings can survive it, and how to prepare for a tornado.

What is a Tornado

A tornado is a funnel-shaped rotating cloud resulting from a thunderstorm or storm cloud that extends to the ground. The speed of a tornado usually ranges from 75 to 300 miles depending on the category, which ranges from F1 to F5. It can be up to one mile wide and 50 miles in length. Tornados are very erratic and can change direction at will.

How Dangerous Can a Tornado Be

A tornado is quite dangerous and can destroy anything on its path, including a concrete building. Going up to 300 miles per hour at its most intense, it can lift large objects such as cars and roofs, hauling them in different directions like paper. A direct hit from a tornado will also cause substantial damage or destruction to any building, be it wood, concrete, or brick. But it’s rare for a tornado itself to directly hit a property since it’s mostly only a few yards wide. The most damage comes from the high winds that blow off roofs and movable objects and the debris driven by these winds, which can crash into buildings. Other strong winds such as cyclones and hurricanes will also have the same effect on buildings. But the construction and design of the building will eventually determine the extent of the damage.

Beyond that, the most intense tornado will destroy a concrete building even if it can withstand stronger storms than a wooden brick house. One of the parts of the house that usually get destroyed first in a tornado is the roof due to the kind of nails used to hold it to the building. That’s why most buildings in tornado-prone zones require using hurricane nails for construction, as this will reduce the risk of the building being blown away.

What Kinds of Buildings Can Withstand a Tornado?

In the American Midwest, a tornado region, homes are built to withstand wind gusts of 90 miles per hour. On the other hand, a tornado can be 200 to 300 miles per hour, depending on its intensity. Any wooden or brick house will survive up to 100 miles per hour. But a well-constructed concrete house can take up to 200 miles per hour of winds. This is usually enough to withstand F1 to F3 categories of tornados.

In order to build a tornado-proof house, you’ll need to use reinforced concrete with an integral reinforced concrete roof which helps to maximize the strength of the structure. A house built with reinforced concrete or stones may survive a tornado in some cases, depending on how it’s constructed. Most buildings built to be tornado-proof are constructed with concrete. It’s even possible to build a house that’ll be 100% tornado-proof with concrete. But such construction will be costly not only to build but also to maintain.

How to Detect a Tornado

It’s important to know about the public warning systems if you live in an area prone to tornados. Usually, communities prone to tornados use sirens to warn residents, and the alert can be a tornado watch or tornado warning. A watch only means that a tornado could form, but a warning means that a tornado has been detected or seen. In that case, it’s important to seek shelter immediately. Beyond the funnel cloud, signs of a tornado include dark or gray-colored sky, large hail, wide, dark, low-lying clouds, and a roar similar to the sound of a freight train. Once you notice these signs, go to a shelter immediately and if you’re not at home, look for a low light area. Never try to outdrive a tornado and avoid staying in places with large span roofs or near glass windows and doors.

How To Prepare for A Tornado

Tornados can destroy all kinds of homes, but it’s possible to avoid being physically affected by a tornado. Here are ways to do that:

1.      Inspect The Home

Although tornados can destroy all kinds of homes, you can strengthen your home to withstand certain categories of tornados. Inspecting your home will let you know where there’s a problem so you can fix it before a tornado comes. The roof and the walls are crucial for your building to survive a tornado. You may need to bolt the walls to the future or use hurricane clips to attach the roof rafters to the wall studs.

2.      Find A Safe Place to Hide

If your house has a basement or storm cellar, this is your best bet. If your house doesn’t have any of this, find the safest place in your house, which should be an interior room on the lowest floor of the house and preferably without windows. Places such as the bathroom, crawl space under the stairs, closet, etc., are good options, and you can designate them as the shelter. You can also build a safe room or reinforce an existing room to serve as shelter while still serving its purpose. If you live in a mobile home, it’s more important to find a safe house outside the home because mobile homes aren’t safe in a tornado, even if you use tie-downs. In such a case, find shelter in a nearby building or locate a low spot where you can go when you hear tornado warnings.

3.      Have Your Disaster Supply Kit

Make you have your emergency supply kit ready before a tornado. This should contain basic things you need to survive for a few days, such as water, medicine, foods that don’t need to be cooked, batteries, lamps, radio, cash, etc. It’s best to have a disaster kit inside your safe room or safe house so you can rush there when you hear the warning.

In Conclusion

Tornados are deadly, and it’s important to hide in the safest place possible if you ever find yourself caught in one. Concrete homes can provide some respite, especially if they’re properly constructed. But the most intense tornados will destroy anything in their direct path.

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