(LEX 18) - Few images can strike fear into people more quickly than the sight of a violently rotating finger of destruction extending from a cloud, a tornado. Even in the smallest tornadoes, the winds exceed hurricane force, and in the strongest can wipe the Earth clean.
Kentucky is not considered to be part of tornado alley. In fact, central and Eastern Kentucky only averages about seven tornadoes per year. The vast majority of these are the smaller EF-0s and 1s. They do damage and can be dangerous, but it's their bigger cousins on the Fujita Scale, the EF2s and EF3s, that do the most damage and cause the most injuries.The last EF-2s and 3s in our area were 5 years ago during that horrible tornado swarm on March 2, 2012. More than a dozen people died and property loss was in the millions in eastern Kentucky.
LEX 18 is the first and only Kentucky TV station to travel to South Carolina to visit the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety and their unique facility that can actually create the wind of a tornado and its effects on a house.
The Institute built a real house to building code standards similar to Kentucky's inside their wind tunnel to show the effects of an EF-2 tornado with winds of 115 to 120 miles per hour.
"Unfortunately the average Kentuckian's home is not built to withstand severe wind storms. So the edges of a tornado, or a really severe straight-line wind storm, the type of events that are not uncommon in Kentucky, shouldn't tear the roof off of a house, shouldn't cause a house to be destroyed and yet we see that happen," CEO Julie Rochman told LEX 18's Bill Meck.
So what does a 115 mph wind do? That wind speed can lead to total destruction, but in a lot of cases, it won't. Rather, those speeds will cause some damage to the walls and roof of a home.
During severe weather coverage, LEX 18 promotes the DUCK method to stay safe. The acronym stands for downstairs, under something, center of the home and keeping your head down.
Watching video of the damage, you can see how the exterior of the home is damaged but the inside suffered the least. As the house went through tornadic winds, it was the exterior wall that failed. And if you were near one, the results could be catastrophic.
Julie Rochman suggests thinking of your home like a body.
"What gives you strength between your bones are the ligaments and tendons that tie them together. That's what I would look for in a house. I want to make sure the roof is tied to the walls. The walls are tied to each other and the floor is tied to the foundation," Rochman advises.
It would be difficult and expensive to try and retrofit your house to the highest standards. that should be done during construction. However, there are a couple of things that can be done pretty easily to add some safety measures to the home. One thing you can do is attach hurricane straps or clips to the roof and walls. Residents in Lexington's Masterson Station began to do that after they were struck by a tornado. It's important to keep the roof attached. The other is getting a reinforced garage door. Its failure during the test led to a wall collapse.
Because of the research that the center has done, they've discovered one other thing you should do when severe weather threatens. Close all your interior doors. It compartmentalizes the damage potential and keeps it from spreading throughout your house. They found this out just before Irma, and they got that information to emergency officials in Florida right before the storm.
For more information on tornadoes in Kentucky, click here.