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Home building standards investigation

10:07 PM, Jun 24, 2013   |    comments
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By Farrah Fazal

HAZELWOOD, Mo. (KSDK) - St. Louis is only eight hours from tornado ground zero. We are always in the path of tornadoes when they come barreling through Oklahoma.

But a new report finds homes in the Midwest aren't built well enough to survive the kinds of tornadoes we've been seeing.

Broken boards under blue skies cannot hide the damage from a day Clementine Gasana and her children still see every day.

The tornado came and went in April. The heartache of losing a home is still fresh in June.

Clementine's house is on one of the hardest hit streets in Hazelwood.

A new report by the American Society of Civil Engineers says homes destroyed in the Joplin tornado in 2011 weren't built to weather the wind. Flying debris from the homes damaged even more homes.

LINK: FEMA's tips on building a safe room

The study says the tornado was blowing more than 135 miles per hour when it killed 161 people and leveled much of the city.

Greg Hempen is a geological engineer with the American Society of Civil Engineers. He's one of the first people to walk into a disaster zone as a volunteer with the Missouri Structural Assessment and Visual Evaluation, or SAVE Coalition.

"We have structures that were built as long ago as 1870," said Hempen.

He says if you hire an engineer, they can tell you how to rebuild as strong a home as you can for as little as you can.

"If you want to keep your life you can add a safe room at very little cost," he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says you can build a safe room by using thicker plywood over a layer of steel when you rebuild.

LINK: Missouri SAVE Coalition

The City of Hazelwood came up with new rules for homeowners and contractors rebuilding from the storm.

"The requirement when we are redoing the roofs now is that we use half-inch plywood and we use H-clips or hurricane clips," said home rebuilder Dave Elliott. "By putting those clips and better fasteners it will keep that roof from lifting up."

He is helping many homeowners on the street and across the area reconstruct their homes. He says not everybody will be able to afford the higher standards and insurance companies may not sign off on new city rules.

"We get caught in the middle," said Elliott.

Clementine and her children are caught too, between a rock and a hard place. She can't move into her shattered home for another six months, until the blue skies above the boards change from summer to fall, from tornadoes to frost.


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