How it Works: High Winds vs. Houses
Ongoing research has taught specialists how high winds find the weak points in houses, so you can make your house as safe as possible from windstorms.
Synopsis: Storms with severe winds, including tornadoes and hurricanes, often wreak havoc and destruction on houses. Ongoing research, however, has taught specialists how these storms find the weak points in houses, so you can make your house as safe as possible from windstorms. In this “How It Works” article, managing editor Debra Judge Silber outlines the weak points where heavy wind can affect a house and the ways those weak points can be strengthened. Among the weak points: windows, gables, corners, wall-to-foundation connections, roof-to-wall connections, and garage doors. Ultimately, the ideal way to resist wind loads is for a house to have a continuous load path in which all structural parts are tied together. For personal safety in a severe windstorm, however, the best bet is a reinforced safe room or an underground shelter.
What happens when a powerful windstorm slams into an average house? The devastation resulting from a tornado or strong hurricane might hint at a foregone conclusion: Goodbye, house. But by studying the precise effects of extreme winds on structures and the pattern of failures that result, researchers have made real progress in understanding how to make homes safer and more damage-resistant.
High winds, whether from a hurricane or a tornado, affect structures in similar ways. Tornadoes can be stronger, but hurricane winds last longer and are accompanied by damaging rain. Both create significant uplift forces on roofs.
Although variables abound even when comparing wood-frame homes (the home’s size and style, the type of storm and its strength, the storm’s path and duration), research has revealed several common points of failure. It is in these areas that wind and flying debris combine to undermine a home’s structure, turning a weather event into a catastrophe. It is also where adequate reinforcement can make a real difference in what remains after the clouds recede.
To view how high winds interact with the weak spots in houses, click the View PDF button below.