Experts challenge Home Depot building design (Tilt-Up Construction), codes after Joplin tornado

Experts challenge Home Depot building design, codes after Joplin tornado

By MIKE McGRAW, The Kansas City Star

As the monster tornado bore down on them, Rusty Howard and his two small children sought refuge in a Home Depot store.

But instead the young father, the children and four other people died when the roof came off and the walls came down, crushing them beneath a 100,000-pound concrete panel.

Within seconds the entire structure collapsed in a heap of concrete slabs, metal trusses and roofing. At least 28 other people survived, huddled in an un-reinforced training room in the back of the building.

Rescue workers found Howard with an arm wrapped around each child.

There aren’t many safe havens in such ferocious, 200-mph winds. Most building codes in “tornado alley” require that commercial structures withstand only 90-mph winds, slower than many major league pitchers’ fastballs.

But while all big-box stores are vulnerable to high winds, the Joplin Home Depot — even though it met local building codes — was especially at risk, according to engineers who study the destruction that tornadoes leave behind.

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The old design of what was called closer columns may have kept the walls up.
Steel was left exposed at the wall ends then clamped or welded together then a column is poured to close the opening, using the weld plates with a 3 or 4 inch weld at the top and maybe the middle does not hold up in such forces. With fires the weld plated used in the modern tilt-up wall design does rather poorly. In the fires the heat is transferred into the weld-plates and the concrete explodes around that plate and the walls start to bend as the fires heat contorts it.

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