Post-Tornado Survey, Joplin, MO

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For the second time in a month, a strong tornado has devastated another US city; causing over 150 fatalities and property destruction through the tornado path.  Dr. David O. Prevatt and new Graduate Student David Roueche from the University of Florida will again be leading a team of researchers from University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), Iowa State University, Oregon State University and South Dakota State University,  as well as representatives from Simpson Strong-Tie, the Applied Technology Council and local practicing engineers.  Starting Sunday May 29th through Thursday June 2nd, the group will survey the damage caused to residential buildings, critical facilities and schools from the tornado, in order to relate the damage to estimates of windspeed (where possible) and wind pressure. The team will also record construction methods observed, and the building codes in force at the time of construction.  Over the next few days, our findings will be posted below.

November 8, 2011

Individual case studies of several residential and commercial structures damaged in the Joplin tornado are now available on the Joplin GIS website. Thanks to Dr. Graettinger from the University of Alabama for setting up the website, which can be reached through the following link: Joplin Tornado GIS website.

September 30, 2011

The August issue of The Wind Engineer, a newsletter published by the American Association for Wind Engineering, features the preliminary observations of the team from both the Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes in an excellent article by Mr. Bill Coulbourne, one of the team members and the Director of Wind and Flood Hazard Mitigation for the Applied Technology Council. The FEMA Mitigation Team also discusses the findings from their investigations in a separate article.

AAWE Newsletter

The full newsletter can be accessed through the following link.
AAWE - August 2011 Newsletter

August 2, 2011

The Joplin tornado assessment by Dr. David O. Prevatt and the rest of the team was recently featured as a front page article in the July/August 2011 edition of ASCE News. The article highlights the methods and findings of the team as they inspected the damage caused by the devastating May 22nd tornado.

June 13, 2011

The American Society of Civil Engineers issued this press release on behalf of the Joplin tornado damage assessment team regarding our preliminary observations of damage to residential structures and light commercial buildings, and the way forward.

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AAWE Newsletter

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June 3, 2011

On Wednesday, June 1, the damage assessment team spent the majority of the day determining the EF-ratings of the damaged structures and developing the case studies. Dr. Graettinger also used a laser scanner to record the St. John’s Hospital which was substantially damaged by the tornado.

The Team

l. to r. (Back row): John Miller, Dr. Shiling Pei, Kate Pfretzschner, Dr. Arijit Sinha, Bill Coulbourne, David Roueche, Dr. Jim Richardson, Lane Morrison; (Front): Blake Doherty, Jordan Michael, Bryan Wert, Dr. Andrew Graettinger, Dr. Rakesh Gupta

May 31, 2011

Once again the damage assessment team got an early start on the day, arriving in Joplin around 8am. The same teams from yesterday stayed together again and finished up the remaining transects. After the transects had been completed, the team met back at the hotel to continue with the mapping process and the generating of case study reports. For the bulk of the afternoon the team began to work through the many photos of the damage that had been taken, assigning DOD ratings taken from the National Weather Service rating service. From these ratings, estimates of the wind speed are taken and EF ratings applied. By the end of the afternoon, all the photos from the previous day had been rated. Over the course of the evening the work focused more on generating the case studies, from the photographs and field notes, and plotting the photos into the GIS maps with the applicable ratings . Overall much progress has been made.

Typical Case Study (click for larger image)

Typical Case Study (click for larger image)

May 30, 2011

The damage assessment team started early to make the 45 minute trip to Joplin, arriving at about 8:00 am. We divided into three 4-person teams, each assigned to survey buildings along one of the 12 transects established across the tornado’s path. Team Leader David O. Prevatt and Bill Coulbourne of ATC met with Joplin Building Code and Enforcement Supervisor, Mr. Steve Cope, as well as CIty and FEMA officials in charge of managing the aftermath of the tornado. The methodology adopted was similar to the one use in the Tuscaloosa tornado, in which geotagged photographs of specific buildings and notes taken to identify failure modes and extent of damage to the main building components. Specific structures were selected for more detailed investigation and documentation of the connections structural details used and other features. In addition, team members also inspected two schools that had failed during the tornado. continued ……


May 29, 2011

Most of the Damage Assessment Team have arrived in Missouri this evening. We are staying about 45 minutes away from Joplin. The team includes three local engineers. The team met with Ms. Wesley Parker, Mitigation Brach Chief of FEMA’s Joint Field Office (Columbia, MO) who provided us with maps and aerial photographs of the tornado damage. The team distributed GPS units, cameras and data loggers in preparation for the first day’s surveys tomorrow.

The Team Organizing for the Next Day

The Team Organizing for the Next Day