Many Factors In Rating A Tornado

Oct 12, 2005
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Little Elm Texas
I've been reading other threads about dissapearing F5s or theories about Meteorologists not wanting to give tornados any rating above F3. I personally do not believe in any conspiracy to limit the number of F4s and F5s. Thanks to meteorologists who take the time to share thier knowledge with us I have learned just how complex a damage survey really is and just how many factors they take into consideration before tagging the final F rating to a tornado. I think Gary Woodall and Tim Marshall defenitly knew what they were doing when they rated the May 9th Collin and Greyson County tornado as a high end F3. Many factors are used in rating a tornado besides building or structural damage and Mr. Woodall points this out when he said. """It was a significant tornado, right on the borderline between F3 and F4. Tim and I surveyed the damage, and while the building damage would defenitly have warranted an F4 rating, there were other things right around the buildings (vehicles that hadn't been rolled or damaged badly, fences intact, small propane tanks unmoved) that suggested it wasn't an F4. So we went with top-end F3.""""
I think tornado damage ratings are improving as science moves forward and are getting more accurate with the new EF scale.
 

MatthewCarman

I've been reading other threads about dissapearing F5s or theories about Meteorologists not wanting to give tornados any rating above F3. I personally do not believe in any conspiracy to limit the number of F4s and F5s. Thanks to meteorologists who take the time to share thier knowledge with us I have learned just how complex a damage survey really is and just how many factors they take into consideration before tagging the final F rating to a tornado. I think Gary Woodall and Tim Marshall defenitly knew what they were doing when they rated the May 9th Collin and Greyson County tornado as a high end F3. Many factors are used in rating a tornado besides building or structural damage and Mr. Woodall points this out when he said. """It was a significant tornado, right on the borderline between F3 and F4. Tim and I surveyed the damage, and while the building damage would defenitly have warranted an F4 rating, there were other things right around the buildings (vehicles that hadn't been rolled or damaged badly, fences intact, small propane tanks unmoved) that suggested it wasn't an F4. So we went with top-end F3.""""
I think tornado damage ratings are improving as science moves forward and are getting more accurate with the new EF scale. [/b]
Good point I never realy understood how they rated tornadoes I only had a idea and I think that as science moves forward we get a better understanding of weather and why the new EF scale was made. As we understand tornadoes better we can better rate them now then we could say 20 years ago and understand how it works better.
 

Shane Adams

I don't question ratings anymore. Since the change to the Fujita scale, I really don't pay attention. F1, F4, doesn't really mean anything to me. If they changed a system that we relied on exclusively for 30 years, what's to say the next 30 years' research won't discount the new system? I'm not a fan of change based on research, without concrete facts. I don't argue the windspeed estimates, I just don't put anymore faith in the new ones than I did the old ones. Science is constantly challenging itself for truth and it seems all that's required to discount current thinking is time. I guess the gist of my post is "they changed it once, they can change it again."

But I could care less either way...I'm just in it for the tornadoes themselves.
 
I agree with Shane on this one. I don't have a problem with the so-called new science but have a significant qualm with consistency between old and new. This appears to be the primary concern among most who have commented on recent F-ratings and implementation of the EF-scale.

Recent news stories relating to the civil action against State Farm after the May 3, 1999 tornadoes have reenergized some of the conspiracy theories floating around out there.

As many as 11,000 Oklahoma residents, who were covered by State Farm when the tornadoes struck in May 1999, could be eligible for damages, Marr said.

"State Farm is disappointed with the Oklahoma verdict," said company spokesman Fraser Engerman, adding that it will appeal.

According to the lawsuit, State Farm hired Texas-based Haag Engineering, which intentionally undervalued damage to homes or claimed the damage was caused by other factors -- like faulty construction -- instead of tornadoes.
CNN Story Link[/b]
If an F4+ tornado hits your house, according to Fujita there are no walls left standing; it's totaled. If an F3 tornado hits your house, per Fujita, it would still have some structural integrity... Therefore, using logic that Haag used in the lawsuit with all else being unchanged, if an F3 tornado hits your house and it is demolished then it must be some other factor such as shoddy construction.

I know little of this case so I certainly cannot rush to judge anyone involved. I am not a lawyer and therefore don't know which party (contractors, insurance company, home owners) are in the right on this one. One can clearly understand the insurance companies' desire to shift the finacial burden to contractors if indeed construction was not up to code, but go tell that to a jury who have been presented with the original Fujita scale in use for the last 30 years which clearly states an F4 or better is going to total your home.

I have the utmost respect for Tim Marshall and the rest of the survey crew. One has to admire TM's concern for life and property after seeing one of his many conference or group talks on home construction and tornado damage. Many of us will agree that new home construction could be better and one cannot fault TM for exposing the reality of the situation. While impropriety may not exist in this or other cases, when the folks who are rating the tornadoes are defending the insurnace companies in court one can clearly see how this conclusion could be reached.

I'd really be interested in more info on this entire discussion from Tim but I suspect the pending appeal will keep all parties quiet for the time being.

CMA: The above was written from home. All opinions and thoughts are mine only and may not be entertained by my employer or coworkers.
 
Apr 29, 2004
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The home in question was in the F1 damage area, and the argument was that a portion of the damage to that home was pre-existing and not caused by the tornado (specifically, the brick veneer had no ties to the walls). State Farm only wanted to pay for damage that was not pre-existing to the tornado. Apparently, other homes in the area showed similar brick failure outside the tornado damage zone.

From the details of the case that I know, I'm shocked that State Farm lost the case. I guess it all depends on how the attorneys presented their side and how the jury decides, no matter what the scientific evidence may or may not show.

Tim is being quiet for obvious reasons - an appeal is pending. But those of us who know of his excellence with regard to storm damage assessment, this is surprising. I hope the Mississippi Katrina case results in favor of science.
 
The home in question was in the F1 damage area, and the argument was that a portion of the damage to that home was pre-existing and not caused by the tornado (specifically, the brick veneer had no ties to the walls). State Farm only wanted to pay for damage that was not pre-existing to the tornado. Apparently, other homes in the area showed similar brick failure outside the tornado damage zone.

From the details of the case that I know, I'm shocked that State Farm lost the case. I guess it all depends on how the attorneys presented their side and how the jury decides, no matter what the scientific evidence may or may not show.

Tim is being quiet for obvious reasons - an appeal is pending. But those of us who know of his excellence with regard to storm damage assessment, this is surprising. I hope the Mississippi Katrina case results in favor of science.
[/b]

All of this is news to me. The article was a bit eye opening to say the least. But why, Greg, do you disagree with the verdict? I must be missing something.
 
Apr 29, 2004
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Norman, OK
All of this is news to me. The article was a bit eye opening to say the least. But why, Greg, do you disagree with the verdict? I must be missing something.[/b]
State Farm only wanted to pay for damages resulting from the tornado, not a pre-existing condition caused by shoddy construction. I trust, to the max, any survey Tim Marshall does, and if he says it's shoddy construction, then it is. I've also had some private discussion about this case with others (who will remain nameless) that led to the same conclusion.

Bear in mind, all the lawsuit money that State Farm pays out for this case, and the Katrina storm surge case (if they also lose that one) will be passed on to all other customers in terms of higher premiums. I'm not an expert on insurance/re-insurance, but I believe this will affect all companies' premiums in one way or another.
 
Apr 29, 2004
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Norman, OK
What constitutes a poorly constructed home? Is it an older home with different building codes or is it a guy forgot to nail the wall down enough or what?[/b]
Tim Marshall shows examples of the kinds of poor construction practices he's seen before on surveys - some of the practices are outright astounding - what some builders will do to cut corners and save a few dollars is nauseating. You better hope that your home isn't suffering from this, before or after any storm.

I recall him specifically showing a home that matched the description of the home in the lawsuit at one of his past seminars (although I can't recall if it was the same home). He pushed laterally on the brick veneer of the home, and it noticeably flexed - it was not attached to the wall studs at all.

Tim's discovery of all sorts of building code violations, as well as gross negligence by builders, in his investigation of the damage in Hurricane Andrew resulted in major changes to the building codes in coastal Florida. That did the general public a fantastic service. This 5/3/99 lawsuit and pending Katrina lawsuit could effectively reverse all that important work. The fact that State Farm opted to fight this in court versus settling with the plaintiffs shows that they stood solidly behind the scientific work of Tim and others at Haag.
 
Oct 12, 2005
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Little Elm Texas
Many examples constitute shoddy construction, one thing that comes to my mind is seeing 2X4 studs nailed into the foundation improperly. in one of TMs presentations you can actually see where the studds are pulled from the nails along the foundation floor board. The house might have had a chance if the construction crews would have nailed the foundation studs in place with a cross X formation instead of straight = like they had it. A tornado isn't going to have to be an F4 to level a poorly constructed home and as the survey brought out look at all the things around that remained intact. If the tornado were an F4 then surely it can over turn a car or bring the fence down and when is the last time an F4 couldn't move a tiny little propane tank. I just don't think homes are very well built these days.

The presentation from TM was during a SKYWARN presentation in 2004. I don't know where to find photographs on that home but they show a good example of bad construction.
 

StephenLevine

IMO, If the damage is proven to be due to poor construction, be it tornadic or hurricane related, then the builder and if planned to be shoddy, the developer should be liable for damages.
What irks me is that unwitting consumers will buy a home with the full faith that it is well constructed, and in the end suffer anguish and heartache due to the negligance of those who put the home together.
If developers/ builders were made responsible for their work, than shoddy building practices would be too expensive to produce.
 
Sep 17, 2004
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Bangladesh
IMO, If the damage is proven to be due to poor construction, be it tornadic or hurricane related, then the builder and if planned to be shoddy, the developer should be liable for damages.
What irks me is that unwitting consumers will buy a home with the full faith that it is well constructed, and in the end suffer anguish and heartache due to the negligance of those who put the home together.
If developers/ builders were made responsible for their work, than shoddy building practices would be too expensive to produce.
[/b]
Exactly and while I agree with Greg that science should be the basis for such judgements, I can't help but feel sorry for these people. They paid their insurance payments on time thinking that they would be covered by such an event. After losing their home and applying for their insured loss it probably does sound like a ploy by the insurance companies to not pay. Haag and Tim are incredibly well respected for un-bias scientific engineering and damage anaylsis, so I would hope that the focus would be on the construction firm and also have more pre-insurance anaylsis of construction.



-Scott.
 
Mar 19, 2005
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www.ragingskymedia.com
I guess the biggest question I have is in regards to older(pre 1970) houses. I live in a 1926 farmhouse built by my great grandfather. The house has a solid structure but they cut some corners in the foundation by using large sandstone chunks for filler. That sandstone is now disintegrating, compromising the internal integrity of the foundation.
Greg Stumpf said:
State Farm only wanted to pay for damages resulting from the tornado, not a pre-existing condition caused by shoddy construction. [/b]
Now, if say a tornado were to come along and the house were to rotate off the foundation due to it's compromised internal structure and be a total loss, would State Farm (which is the company we have our house insurance policy with) try to blame the destruction of the house on the pre existing condition caused shoddy building practices of 80 years ago? Could they get away with that? :eek: It actually concerns me quite a bit as we have had three F2 tornadoes pass over or near our farm in the last twenty six years. I'm not kidding. :blink:
The first one touched down a quarter mile east of the house in July of 1980 that blew out every window in the house, ripped off part of the roof, snapped trees and picked up a piece of farm equipment and dropped it thirty yards from its prior posistion; another in July of 1993 which destroyed a natural gas pumping station 3/10ths of a mile north of our house, skipped over our place causing minor roof and tree damage, and then touched down again two miles to the south, where it picked up six of my uncle's seven granaries and dropped them anywhere from a quarter of a mile to a mile away to the south and southeast; and yet another which caused significant tree damage, sucked the window screens of all the windows on the north side of the house and wrapped them around trees, knocked an 70 year old Siberian elm into our neighbor's house and picked up one of their granaries and dropped it 100 yards east of its previous location. (By the way, the Boulder NWS surveyed and rated the intensity of all three of these tornadoes.) So I think my concern is valid given the history our farm has with tornado encounters.
Does anyone have any thoughts on this? :mellow:
 
Apr 29, 2004
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Now, if say a tornado were to come along and the house were to rotate off the foundation due to it's compromised internal structure and be a total loss, would State Farm (which is the company we have our house insurance policy with) try to blame the destruction of the house on the pre existing condition caused shoddy building practices of 80 years ago?[/b]
In the Bridge Creek case, the plaintiffs claimed that the condition of the loose brick veneer was being blamed on the wind. However, State Farm and Haag determined that the damage existed prior to the wind, and was not caused, nor exacerbated, by the wind.

This is different than a tornado causing more damage due to shoddy construction (e.g., lack of hurricane clips). I'm not sure how insurance companies deal with these situations.