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View Full Version : Tornado + Split level house = ?



Jim Lahey
11-12-2007, 06:09 AM
I am curious about how safe the basements of bi-level houses are, where the basement is halfway in the ground and halfway above? How would these so called basements hold up in a tornado? I have seen some split-level houses where the lower level is called a "walk-out basement" but essentially it is just two feet of dirt piled up against one corner of the house.

Maggie Kahman
11-12-2007, 11:51 AM
Well, It depends. My Aunt lives on a golf course in Omaha, and her house is like that. This isnt just any 2 feet of dirt, either. What size tornado are we dealing with here? Also; what is the path of said tornado? How well built is the house?

BTW, welcome to Stormtrack:)

Terry Tyler
11-12-2007, 12:13 PM
http://www.mokasmanagement.com/deerrun/deer-run-manors-condo-intro.jpg

if your talking about a house like this...then, you pose a good question...

i used to live in a pretty big apartment complex, and always wondered where the safest place really was...

considering you has a tornado about EF-2/EF-3 strength, and it hit a two story home...it might destroy the top layers and partially collapse the building...and if you were in the basement, or interior room inside a 2-story or better house...you could risk being buried alive, or worse...

i always wondered about if you were trapped in the basement, and your water-main to your water heater broke...if there was no way to cut it off, you might even drown...or if the gas mane broke, or wires snipped...you could possibly burn to death trapped in a fire...

alot of that might depend on the angle which the tornado hit you, and the intensity and structural design...ill tell you one thing though...i wouldent want to be in any house when a big tornado was heading for it...

i dont know if i answered your question...but, personally i wouldent go to the basement...IMO the best defense against severe storms is being aware of the threat and keeping in eye on the location of the storms, and warnings...and if its headed your way, and you know what your doing...do your best to get away from the area before it comes...

rdale
11-12-2007, 12:20 PM
Terry - that's not a split level, that's a 2-story house.




i always wondered about if you were trapped in the basement, and your water-main to your water heater broke...if there was no way to cut it off, you might even drown...or if the gas mane broke, or wires snipped...you could possibly burn to death trapped in a fire...

Or if you were in the basement, and the tornado dropped a pack of rabid wolves who had been infected with a man-eating virus, and the wolves were unable to get you because of the debris, unfortunately alien invaders also picked that day to come down and it was just a mess.

On the other hand - I'll still tell people that the basement is the safest place to be in a tornado.

Terry Tyler
11-12-2007, 12:28 PM
Terry - that's not a split level, that's a 2-story house.



Or if you were in the basement, and the tornado dropped a pack of rabid wolves who had been infected with a man-eating virus, and the wolves were unable to get you because of the debris, unfortunately alien invaders also picked that day to come down and it was just a mess.

On the other hand - I'll still tell people that the basement is the safest place to be in a tornado.

http://www1.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/3438758/2/istockphoto_3438758_split_level_house.jpg

im sorry about the fact that it wasnt a split level home...but they are very similar in design, and it could face a similar problem...


Or if you were in the basement, and the tornado dropped a pack of rabid wolves who had been infected with a man-eating virus, and the wolves were unable to get you because of the debris, unfortunately alien invaders also picked that day to come down and it was just a mess.apparently you think that this concept is unrealistic...perhaps you might want to talk to the family of a man who died on 11/15/05 when his trailer was thrown into trees and died as a result of a house fire...


The most serious damage, ranging up to F-3 intensity, occurred from Big Bear Highway to Moor's Resort on Kentucky Lake. The occupant of a destroyed mobile home was killed in this area. The mobile home was thrown 40 feet and overturned before catching fire.being trapped in rubble is a very real possibility...

Jeff Miller
11-12-2007, 12:33 PM
There are a million possibilities, Terry - but I'd risk those things happening in the basement then being above level and decapitated by large objects or being missle-stung by grains of dirt, glass, and others which can leave one unrecognizable. The bottom line is what is the least risk and that is your basement. You can only control what you can control. I'd bet on the basement.

On topic, this is my idea of a split level:

http://www.thebuyerscounsel.com/SplitLevel.Jpg

Im not sure its any safer down in the lower level with the glass and wind channel possibilities. I'd prefer a basement underneath the split if you ask me.

Terry Tyler
11-12-2007, 12:39 PM
There are a million possibilities, Terry - but I'd risk those things happening in the basement then being above level and decapitated by large objects or being missle-stung by grains of dirt, glass, and others which can leave one unrecognizable. The bottom line is what is the least risk and that is your basement. You can only control what you can control. I'd bet on the basement.

i agree with you, jeffrey...

i think some misunderstood my statement...im not saying that basements are unsafe...what i am saying is, if you live in any kind of structure...there is a risk of things caving in...hence the IMO before i wrote my statement...

also, if you were aware of the storm, like i said...you probably wouldent be in any flying glass and debris if you could see it two counties away...thats just my personal opinion...i would rather drive away from the storm altogether then risk being in a structure...

rdale
11-12-2007, 12:40 PM
It is safer in the basement - I wouldn't sit next to the windows, I'd set in an interior room.

The basement of a split-level offers more protection that the first floor of a 2-story home, that's why I clarified your differences.

And your example is of a mobile home (not safe in a tornado) being thrown about - I want an example of someone dying in the basement of their homes because they drowned from a water line break.

Terry Tyler
11-12-2007, 12:47 PM
It is safer in the basement - I wouldn't sit next to the windows, I'd set in an interior room.

The basement of a split-level offers more protection that the first floor of a 2-story home, that's why I clarified your differences.

And your example is of a mobile home (not safe in a tornado) being thrown about - I want an example of someone dying in the basement of their homes because they drowned from a water line break.

i have not heard of any incident in which someone drown due to a broken water main...but i believe that such a scenario could be possible...

i am not saying that a basement is unsafe, or advocating anyone trying to flee from a storm...just that i wouldent want to be in the basement of a split-level home when a tornado was hitting it...

Jim Lahey
11-12-2007, 12:49 PM
Here is an example house. The lower window is the basement window. The basement walls are cinder blocks half way up then the above ground part is wood frame like the rest of the house. There is a lot of variation on these kind of houses and I would guess the more dirt around the basement the better. Debris flying through those basement windows would be the main concern.

http://img232.imageshack.us/img232/8327/topekamls141526vr0.jpg

http://img221.imageshack.us/img221/1003/43515775nc3.jpg

Cris Schroeder
11-12-2007, 01:30 PM
I'd take a standard basement over a split-level or view-out any day, but the split-level has to be better than no basement at all. The split-level/view out floorplan is very popular around here, which surprised me a little while house-hunting. We went with the ranch/full basement layout for both houses we've built. The real estate agents think you're crazy for worrying about tornadoes, but neither the wife or I were comfortable not having a room fully below ground level.

We moved into our first house a couple of months after the OKC tornado in '98. After seeing pictures of houses scrubbed to their foundations, I was thankful we thought far enough ahead to be underground. Now I just hope we'll never need it.

Tyler_Costantini
11-12-2007, 03:47 PM
I have always wondered how my parents split-level house would fair in a tornado. Their house just like the one shown standard 1970's construction, basically gravity and a few nails hold the house down.

The Neighbor has a real basement they can take shelter in. I still wondered if the under staircase closet / crawl space entrance area that all split-level homes seem to have would provide any protection in a tornado, or maybe thatís the worst place to be, in a small space with tons of house above you?

I know that short of a true engineering study itís hard to tell. I would like to know what some similar homes have done in smaller EF-0 to EF-2 tornadoes.

I think most wood frame homes are stripped from their foundations EF-4 EF-5 tornadoes when hit directly. As I remember the 1995 Dimmit Texas tornado that the VORTEX team studied had stripped similar homes from their foundation. I was only 14 at the time so I may be way off!

David Drummond
11-12-2007, 03:57 PM
Maybe Tim Marshall could come in and post on this. He would really be the expert here.

DNeal
11-12-2007, 04:51 PM
This is a newer home right?? Perhaps a storm room is or could be implemented. I am getting a house on 20 acres of land in the middle of no where. We aren't building a basement(just a little storage area) but we are getting one of those storm-ready rooms, which I hear a lot of the new contractors(especially around the OKC area) put into your plans per request.

John Olexa
11-12-2007, 05:43 PM
I would take my chances in the basement. I understand the thinking of leaving the area. BUT! Where I live, even if I had time to leave and try to drive away from it, theres lot of traffic now. On Fridays it backs up for a few miles due to a number of new traffic light that have sprung up.

So I guess as far as trying to out run the storm, it depends on where you live. Most likely would be a bad idea where I'm at.

Kiel Ortega
11-12-2007, 06:23 PM
Just a note I thought I would throw in here. The house where the girl was killed in the Rogers, MN tornado was a split-level or one with a half basement (basically, the same type as described in earlier posts). It turned into a slider and the whole upper part of the house ended up in the lower floor. I don't know how much house type matters with survivability (though a true basement probably helps) so much as quality construction and luck.

Bob Schafer
11-12-2007, 07:03 PM
We aren't building a basement(just a little storage area) but we are getting one of those storm-ready rooms, which I hear a lot of the new contractors(especially around the OKC area) put into your plans per request.

Just how tough do they advertise those rooms to be? If you say EF-5 tough, I say nonsense, but EF-4, perhaps?

Shame on all of you who would be cowering in fear at a tornado's approach!! You're stormCHASERS, aren't you? Be the hunter, not the hunted!!!

......j/k.

DNeal
11-12-2007, 07:19 PM
Just how tough do they advertise those rooms to be? If you say EF-5 tough, I say nonsense, but EF-4, perhaps?

Shame on all of you who would be cowering in fear at a tornado's approach!! You're stormCHASERS, aren't you? Be the hunter, not the hunted!!!

......j/k.

LOL I was aiming toward my parents who cower in the sight of a dark cloud haha. Running from a storm is probably the DUMBEST thing you can do. Of course most of us are storm chasers here so it would be very non life threatening and if anything will witness the destruction of own house lol. Being in the basement (or storm ready room) is the safest thing hands down. How stupid would one feel if they were hurt/killed in a traffic jam running from a tornado, only to learn later on(well not if they are dead lol) that the tornado missed their home by 5 miles. I guess if you are out in Hicksville or away from any sort of city the risk would be generally low to flee. When I finally build my OWN house it will be in middle of no where, single story, with a safe room and lots of open country haha.

David Drummond
11-12-2007, 07:26 PM
I would say this is pretty dramatic:

http://www.ozsaferooms.com/n61.JPG

Terry Tyler
11-12-2007, 07:50 PM
Just how tough do they advertise those rooms to be? If you say EF-5 tough, I say nonsense, but EF-4, perhaps?

man, that reminds me of some storm shelters i seen around here...i wish i could take some pictures for you to see it...

they are apparently pre-cast concrete/steel storm shelters...im sure they are FEMA/NSSA certified or whatever, but it didnt look to good to me...if i seen a big tornado coming for me, and i lived in that house...i would get in a car and start running before i went in that shelter...

the structure itself was definatly of good make...but it was an above-ground type storm house, and it was pretty much a solid concrete-steel saferoom sitting out in a field with a little bit of dirt (not even 1/3 the way up) on the sides of it...

i figured a strong enough tornado could pick the whole thing up and send it flying...and if you think thats bad...you should see the one on mr. smiths property...his storm house is above ground too, but its make of brick, and mortar and the roof is made of standard wood, and shingles...

he would probably stand a much better chance inside of his home then in the shelter he goes to whenever storms are in the area...

David Poch
11-12-2007, 07:56 PM
Wow that is a pretty sturdy room that was built. Did it say what event that was? I can almost be certain that is in Moore the fast food signs give it away. I lived in that neighborhood and my house got hit on May 8th of 03.

I remember as a kid going into the hallway with a bunch of pillows and blankets. When my parents built thier next house they had it made with a full basement and that is where they hunker down during storms. That is in Illinois, the only houses around here that have basements seem to be older homes. Personally if I had to choose I would take a basement.

David

David Drummond
11-12-2007, 07:58 PM
That was in the last Moore, OK tornado I believe.

Bob Schafer
11-12-2007, 10:06 PM
That was in the last Moore, OK tornado I believe.

It looks pretty impressive, alright, but then I remember the story of the FULL grain bin being blown away... I think it was even you who related that story to me, David! Imagine your neighbor's Hummer slamming into the "safe room" at 200 mph. :eek: Might maintain it's integrity, but I'd rather be in the basement, tyvm.

John Wetter
11-12-2007, 11:26 PM
Here's a split level house with a walk-out after a fairly low-medium tornado:

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/assessments/images/ROGERS.GIF

Here's a report on the event:
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/assessments/pdfs/RogersAssessment.pdf

The sad part about the report and all of the attention around it is that the building standards are what really got the people in trouble and that will likely be the piece never really looked at in this case.

-John

Jim Lahey
11-13-2007, 01:34 AM
I found a old study from the 1966 Topeka tornado, which describes how different kinds of basements held up. For the walkout type it said debris flew in through the walls and windows and the ceilings above the walkout part were blown away in most cases. Pretty interesting because I live in Topeka.

http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/095/mwr-095-06-0370.pdf

fplowman
11-13-2007, 01:37 AM
I think a wall of concrete is pretty safe to hide behind. But if I had my druthers I would be about 1/4 - 1/2 mile slightly to the southeast out of its path and observing it, depending on road options.

On a traditional NE mover anyways.

lol