Was Joplin Tornado Really EF-5?

June 11th, 2013 at 3:56 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

joplin tornado  Joplin Tornado Damage from NBC.  Click the pic. to enlarge.  Here’s a very interesting article.  A team of structural engineers toured the 22-mile long path of the Joplin Tornado and found “that more than 83 percent of the damage on May 22, 2011, was caused by winds of 135 mph or less, which is equal to the maximum wind speed of an EF-2 tornado.   Only 4 percent of the damage could be linked to an EF-4 tornado, which can have winds speeds ranging from 168 to 199 mph. The ASCE investigators found no EF-5 level tornado damage to buildings at all.”  The Structural Engineers Association of Kansas and Missouri (SEAKM) report is available for free. It contains much the same observations and recommendations noted in this article. There are other reports which are notable; many more than the links below.
SEAKM report, May 2012:  http://www.seakm.com/uploads/Joplin_Committee_Report_05262012.pdf

18 Responses to “Was Joplin Tornado Really EF-5?”

  1. Blue Moon says:

    Thanks for the link Bill. I am appalled that schools are not required to have storm shelters in “tornado alley”

    Go Structural Engineers!

    1. This isn’t meant in any way as a direct response to you, but a response to this line of reasoning.

      Perhaps we should make an extensive list of everything a school can do to keep your child safe, Then spend everyone else’s money to make sure it is. The school would resemble a prison, every one would wear the same thing. No one would be allowed to talk out of turn. Everyone will be taught to think, act, and behave a certain way. Everyone will be required to be on medications to level moods, feelings, etc. Perhaps there will be enough money and time left to actually educate children.

      Or you could just home school or go with private education and stop worrying about it.

      Schools are very well built structures. Having surveyed the Joplin damage myself, perhaps the school was built better than the Hospital in some ways. Very large horrific tornadoes like this are rare, and they can happen in OKC, they can happen in Flint, Hunstville, AL or they can happen in Massachusetts. I don’t think singling out “Tornado Alley” is fair, nor is mandating schools to prepare for every imaginable disaster and telling taxpayers to fund it, especially when there are plenty of other options available than sending your child away for 8 hours to be trained to be good little obedient servants of the U.S.A and all of its corporate partners. If the state of Oklahoma or the city of OKC wants to build structures a certain way, so be it. Its not my problem here in West Michigan, nor should I be responsible for OKC’s children.

      Everyone is trained to think this way: If we just force people to do things, or spend even more of everyone else’s money, it will all get better. You now forfeit as much as half your income to this idea, and you still complain. Who taught you to think that way? Chances are it was public school.

      1. Bill Steffen says:

        One option that many families use on days with a significant tornado threat is to LEAVE! They get in the car and drive 100 miles out of the area and go visit relatives or spend a night at a motel. Literally hundreds of people weren’t home in Moore and El Reno because they left and drove south toward Texas, out of the main threat area. That’s one reason you can have 1,000 homes destroyed/severely damaged and have only 24 fatalities.

        1. Mike Geukes says:

          Watching the coverage of the different TV stations in OKC, with the El Reno tornado, a KFOR meteorologist told people to drive south. What happen that 1-44 and 1-35 traffic was gridlock. It was a mess.

      2. Blue Moon says:

        wow, reading a bit too much into this. It’s about public safety and saving lives.
        The cost to reinforce the corridors to withstand ef0 to ef2 would not be a significant percentage of the total building cost. Maybe we could go without the auxiliary gymnasium to pay for it?

  2. michael g (SE GR) says:

    But it MUST have been an EF5! The weather is so much more extreme now!!

    1. DF (SE Mich) says:

      Right on I fear…

    2. Cort S. says:

      Conversely, I wonder how many tornadoes of old were rated F5 for a picture in the newspaper of a house blown off its foundation… no idea how well or poorly constructed it was. I know of at least one tornado that was downgraded because of this. This is the main problem with using the (E)F scale as a climate record. Our expectations of the scale’s rating-level frequencies, and our understanding of wind damage, have been continually evolving.

      1. DF (SE Mich) says:

        Agreed Cort. The tornado in my town of Dexter was EF3, which I actually highly doubt with the way houses are built over here.

        1. Mike Geukes says:

          A lot of the tornadoes back in the 50′s-70;s were rated based on newspaper accounts and photographs. Good article to read.
          http://www.spc.noaa.gov/publications/mccarthy/f-scale.pdf

    3. Paul says:

      Probably BIG OIL’s fault, dammit!

  3. DF (SE Mich) says:

    I’m not sure if this has been discussed but space.com had this cool video of tornadoes on the sun.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN7I9KQjVG8

  4. Steve says:

    How could an EF2 tornado kill 159 people? Was it because it was so large and slow moving?

  5. Kevin (Marshall) says:

    I was thinking that the EF rating as based upon specific damage noted by the NWS, including picking up cement reinforced parking stops and scouring pavement from various parking lots.

    1. Brian(Grandville) says:

      I’ve watched several videos of the Joplin tornado this week, and let me tell you the damage in a lot of areas is absolutely incredible. I have no reason based on video evidence this was a very powerful tornado.

      1. Brian(Grandville) says:

        Should’ve said, no reason to believe this was not a powerful tornado.

  6. GunLakeDeb says:

    I’m not going to name names – but I suspect that we have entire housing developments that could blow down like a house of cards in a fairly light tornado?? And like the article said – as the “cheapie” houses fall apart – they create debris missiles that get hurled at other better-built houses….

    The cookie-cutter houses sometimes cut corners when possible. A 1/16th of an inch thickness here and there doesn’t seem like a problem; nor cheaper construction adhesive. Until the wind blows.

  7. Mary says:

    I lived in Granby Missouri, which is twenty minutes south of Joplin and we moved back to michigan just two months before the tornado hit. I know for a fact that people in missouri do not pay enough attention to the weather cause when i worked at a gas station, i would ask customers if they have heard anything about the weather on days they should be keeping a close eye on it, nobody would know. Im from michigan and i am always aware of the weather going around me. I have kids and always want to make sure they are safe. I just think that if u live in a state that is prone to tornadoes, people really need to pay more attention to the weather there.

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