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StEER: Structural Extreme Event Reconnaissance Network



FAT-1 Members: (all from Auburn Contributing Authors

Univ.) David Roueche (Lead), Robert (in alphabetical order)
Barnes, Brett Davis, Justin Marshall, Yanlin Guo, Colorado State Univ.
Brandon Rittelmeyer Courtney Hodges, Auburn Univ.
Tracy Kijewski-Correa, Univ. of Notre
FAT-2 Members: (all from Univ. of Dame
South Alabama) John Cleary (Lead), Abdullahi Salman, Univ. of Alabama
Stephanie Smallegan Huntsville
Kelly Turner, Auburn Univ.
Contributing Editors: Eric Merschman, Univ. of Alabama
David O. Prevatt, University of Florida Huntsville
Ian Robertson, University of Hawaii, Manoa Harish Mulchandani, Birla Institute of
Technology & Science, India

Released: March 27, 2019 | NHERI DesignSafe Project ID: PRJ-2265

Website: | Email:

Table of Contents
Table of Contents 2
Executive Summary 3
Introduction 4
Meteorological Background 5
StEER Response Strategy 7
Reconnaissance Methodology 7
D2D Assessments 9
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Surveys 10
Local Codes & Construction Practices 11
Alabama 11
Georgia 12
Florida 13
Federal, State and Local Response 13
Storm Impacts 13
Loss of Life and Injuries 14
Buildings 14
Residential Construction 15
Site-Built Home Vulnerabilities: Insufficient Attachment to Foundation 15
Site-Built Home Vulnerabilities: Lack of Structural Sheathing 19
Site-Built Home Vulnerabilities: Breached Building Envelope 20
Site-Built Homes: Performance of New Construction 22
Mobile/Manufactured Home Vulnerabilities: Overview 23
Mobile/Manufactured Home Vulnerabilities: Insufficient Anchorage 24
Mobile/Manufactured Home Vulnerabilities: Weakened Anchorages 26
Commercial Construction 29
Critical Facilities 34
Airport Facilities 37
Non-building Structures 39
Lifelines: Power and Telecommunications 41
Lifelines: Transportation Infrastructure 43
Current Conditions 43
Recommendations for Further Study 44
Acknowledgements 45
References 46
Appendix A: Confirmed Tornadoes on March 3, 2019 47
Appendix B: UAV Flight Details 49
About StEER 49
StEER Event Report Library 51
2019 51
2018 51

Executive Summary
A typical late-winter Sunday afternoon quickly turned tragic on March 3, 2019, as the deadliest tornado
outbreak since 2013 struck the southeastern United States. At least 34 tornadoes were confirmed across
Florida, Georgia and Alabama, the strongest with maximum estimated wind speeds of 170 mph over a
nearly 70 mile path through eastern Alabama and western Georgia. Primarily impacting rural
communities of Alabama and Georgia, the EF4 tornado killed 23 persons, including four children, all in
Lee County, AL, and injured at least 90 others. The fatalities eclipsed the total number of fatalities that
occurred in all of 2018 (10 total). The EF4 tornado was also the first EF4 or higher to strike the US since

The large number of fatalities associated with this tornado made it the focal point of the response by the
Structural Extreme Events Reconnaissance (StEER) network. The ultimate goal of structural engineering
is to protect life safety, and StEER is committed to learning from the tragic loss of life that occurred in
this powerful storm in order to prevent such tragedies in the future. The objectives of the StEER response
encompassed the following:
1. Identify the possible cause(s) of the elevated fatality rates that were observed in the EF4
Beauregard/Smith Station, AL tornado.
2. Document the performance of engineered buildings and critical facilities impacted by the
3. Investigate the performance of any new construction (e.g., post IBC, IRC buildings) impacted by
the tornadoes within the proper context of surrounding structures, environment and location
relative to the tornado path.

The StEER response included virtual assessments of all reported tornadoes, and deployment of Field
Assessment Teams (FATs) to Beauregard, AL, Smith Station, AL, Eufaula, AL, Cairo, GA, and
Tallahassee, FL. Teams assessed a variety of construction types, including:
1. Site-built and manufactured homes;
2. Critical facilities (fire station, telecommunication tower).
3. Aircraft hangars
4. Warehouses and metal buildings.

Preliminary observations from the FAT investigation include the following:

1. Lack of proper anchorage in both older site-built homes, and manufactured homes of all ages, appears
to be a key contributor to the enhanced fatality rates observed in the EF4 Beauregard/Smith Station
2. Significant material degradation due to corrosion and other natural processes is frequently being
observed in the lateral and vertical wind load paths of manufactured homes.
3. Newer site-built homes and engineered buildings provided adequate life-safety protection, even in the
EF4 tornado, despite damage to the building structural system. In contrast, new manufactured homes
were not able to protect life safety, due in large part to a lack of sufficient anchorage.

StEER recommends further investigation into the unique aspects of the tornado vulnerability of rural
communities, particularly for mobile and manufactured homes. Careful reconsideration should also be given
to current codes and regulations which fail to protect life safety in the strongest tornadoes and property
damage in EF2 and lower tornadoes.

All observations and findings provided in this report should be considered preliminary and are based on the
limited scope of FAT-1 and FAT-2. Specific recommendations of areas worthy of further investigation are
offered at the conclusion of this report.

On the afternoon of March 3, 2019, a tornado outbreak resulted in 34 confirmed tornadoes across
the southeastern United States (including Alabama, Georgia and Florida) (Fig. 1). The strongest
tornado of the outbreak struck Lee County, AL, and was rated an EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita
Scale1, with peak wind speeds estimated at 170 mph2. A total of 23 fatalities and more than 90
injuries were reported, making both the tornado and the tornado outbreak the deadliest in the U.S.
since May 2013, when an EF5 tornado killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma. The death toll is
more than double the total number of tornado-related fatalities across the United States in all of
2018, which was 10 (Lada and Mitchell, 2019).

In addition to the tragic EF4 tornado, the March 3, 2019 tornado outbreak produced one EF3
tornado, seven EF2 tornadoes, nineteen EF1 tornadoes, and six EF0 tornadoes. The tornadoes
impacted a variety of communities and structures, from manufactured homes in rural communities
like Beauregard, AL, to engineered buildings at the Eufaula Municipal Airport, to commercial
buildings in Cairo, GA, and even telecommunication towers. The breadth of the damage, and the
tragic loss of life, necessitated a response from the Structural Extreme Events Reconnaissance
(StEER) network to capture perishable data regarding the performance of buildings and other
structures during these tornadoes.

Figure 1: Locations of tornadoes during March 3, 2019 outbreak, as reported in the NWS
Damage Assessment Toolkit (DAT), with annotations indicating StEER deployments as of
March 9, 2019.

1 EF0 = 65-85 mph, EF1 = 86-110 mph, EF2 = 111-135 mph, EF3 = 136-165 mph, EF4 = 166-200mph,
EF5 = >200 mph.
2 Here and elsewhere in the report, wind speeds are understood to be 3 second gusts at 10 m height in

open terrain.

In addition to documenting the damage resulting from this tornado outbreak, StEER further hopes
to use this event to exercise the protocols, procedures, policies and workflows for tornado
responses, which it will be refining over the next two years in collaboration with the wider hazards
community including the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) and other
members of the Extreme Events Reconnaissance Consortium.

Rather than issue a separate Preliminary Virtual Assessment Team (P-VAT) Report, due to
the swift response by StEER Field Assessment Teams (FATs), StEER is issuing only this Early
Access Reconnaissance Report (EARR) inclusive of typical P-VAT Report content to:
1. provide an overview of the tornadoes that were reported;
2. summarize the preliminary reports of damage to wide-ranging infrastructure;
3. introduce the StEER event strategy in response to these tornadoes;
4. summarize the activities, methodologies, engineering perspectives and preliminary
findings of the StEER Field Assessment Teams (FATs) conducting on-site assessments;
5. identify regions or topics warranting additional investigation.

It should be emphasized that this report is informed both by publicly available online data released
3-4 days of the event, in addition to preliminary ground observations by the FATs and available
aerial imagery. Any overview of FAT data herein is preliminary and based on the rapid assessment
of data within days of its collection. As such, the records have not yet been processed by the
StEER Quality Assurance protocol and are based largely on the judgment of the field investigator
on the ground. These assessments will be updated when the full dataset is released on
DesignSafe under Project ID PRJ-2257. In the meantime, raw data is now available for viewing in
the Fulcrum Community page:

Meteorological Background
The National Weather Service (NWS) Storm Prediction Center issued an outlook on the morning
of March 3, 2019 – approximately six hours prior to the tornadoes touching down – stating that
there was an “enhanced risk of severe thunderstorms across parts of southern Alabama and
central/southern Georgia.”3 The weather was described as a “well-defined southern-stream
shortwave trough” that moved eastward across the southeast portion of the country behind a cold
front, where it combined with the warm, tropical air from the Gulf over western Mississippi. This
resulted in a line of severe thunderstorms running from Mississippi and across Alabama, Georgia,
and the Florida panhandle. These thunderstorms became a quasi-linear convective system
moving east-northeast across the outlook area. The combination of these two air masses caused
destabilization ahead of the convective system, which amplified the threat of tornadoes: “strong
low-level shear and sufficient CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) indicate a risk of
intense supercells with a strong tornado or two possible.”3 Ultimately, the Day 1 Convective
Outlook was verified (Fig. 2), with 34 tornadoes confirmed by the National Weather Service in the
southeast. The majority occurred in east-central Alabama and west-central Georgia (e.g., Fig. 3).
A summary of the confirmed tornadoes is provided in Appendix A.


Figure 2: Tornado outlook probabilities issued by the NWS Storm Prediction Center at 1300
UTC (0700 CT).

Figure 3: Funnel cloud in Byron, GA. (Source: Greg Martin - AP)

StEER Response Strategy
Shortly after the outbreak, scout teams began to deploy under the leadership of StEER Associate
Director David Roueche, using Auburn University as a regional node given its close proximity to
the affected area. Simultaneously, a Virtual Assessment Team (VAT) was formed to begin
compiling publicly available information, while StEER continued its outreach to other regional
experts to form additional Field Assessment Teams (FATs). This first Auburn-based Field
Assessment Team (FAT-1) included Auburn University faculty members Justin Marshall and
Robert Barnes, along with graduate students Brett Davis and Brandon Rittelmeyer. Members of
this team conducted targeted door-to-door (D2D) structural assessments using the Fulcrum data
collection platform in the Alabama communities of Beauregard, Smith Station and Eufaula
between March 4 and March 11. The locations of the deployments were guided by public media
reports and data (including photographs and estimated tornado path) collected by the Birmingham
National Weather Service Forecast Office that was made available through the Damage
Assessment Toolkit (DAT). These D2D assessments were complemented by high-resolution
aerial imagery captured using an unmanned aerial vehicle. In addition, information was solicited
from survivors to provide context on the tornado path and intensity and to document structural
and historical characteristics of certain buildings.

A second regional Field Assessment Team (FAT-2) from University of South Alabama, led by
John Cleary with Stephanie Smallegan, conducted additional D2D structural assessments on
March 9, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL and Cairo, GA. Figure 4 provides a visual summary of the
locations of assessments conducted by FAT-1 and FAT-2.

The objectives of the StEER FATs for this event are as follows:
1. Identify the possible cause(s) of the elevated fatality rates that were observed in the
EF4 Beauregard/Smith Station, AL tornado.
2. Document the performance of engineered buildings and critical facilities impacted by
the tornadoes.
3. Investigate the performance of any new construction (e.g., post IBC, IRC buildings)
impacted by the tornadoes within the proper context of surrounding structures,
environment and location relative to the tornado path.

Reconnaissance Methodology
The NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) performed high-level assessments of all tornado
tracks from the outbreak and published the information through the DAT4, allowing the StEER
FATs to focus on more detailed forensic assessments in targeted regions within the damage paths
of tornadoes having the greatest impact to structures. This allowed the FATs to strategically focus
on: (1) structures associated with the high mortality rates in the Beauregard, AL tornado; 2)
engineered structures at and adjacent to the Weed on Field Airport in Eufaula, AL; and 3)
structural typologies exposed to the strongest tornadoes (EF2+). All data presented herein are
preliminary. Field reconnaissance is still ongoing by team members from Auburn University to
more thoroughly document the entire tornado path of the EF4 tornado.


FAT-1 assessments along EF4 tornado path between Beauregard and Smiths Station, AL

FAT-1 assessments along EF2 tornado path in Eufaula, AL.

Figure 4: Maps depicting locations of D2D assessments by FAT-1 and FAT-2, relative to
tornado path. Tornado paths and polygons are taken from the DAT.

FAT-2 assessments in Cairo, GA

FAT-2 assessments in Tallahassee, FL

Figure 4 (con’t): Maps depicting locations of D2D assessments by FAT-1 and FAT-2,
relative to tornado path. Tornado paths and polygons are taken from the DAT.

D2D Assessments
D2D Damage Assessments enable a detailed construction classification and evaluation of
condition/component damage levels. These were recorded using a Fulcrum mobile smartphone
application acquiring geotagged photos and other relevant metadata from the surveyor’s mobile
device. The App development was informed by the experience of the 2017 Hurricane Season and
StEER deployments in 2018 and reorganized into a Fulcrum project, allowing FAT members to
select assessment forms customized for buildings, non-buildings, or hazard indicators.

FAT emphasis is placed on documenting the performance of as many buildings as possible in a

short amount of time, while still capturing the critical, perishable information in the field that is
needed for a useful assessment. This information includes: 1) collecting clear photographs from

multiple perspectives, 2) accurately geo-locating the assessments, 3) defining site-specific
characteristics which require on-site forensic investigation, and 4) noting unique features of
structures that would affect windstorm performance and not be otherwise visible from the
photographs or aerial imagery.

A large portion of D2D data enrichment comes from VAT members working to post-process and
analyze the data submitted by FATs, once the file synchronizes with the cloud-based Fulcrum
database. VATs are charged with: 1) creating uniform damage rating standards from the variable
assessments of individual FAT investigators, 2) conducting a detailed QA/QC process, 3)
enriching each entry with more detailed classification of the structure and assessments of
overall/component damage due to wind, wind-borne debris, trees, and other hazards, and 4)
overseeing the migration of this data into DesignSafe in accordance with uniform data standards.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Surveys

The aerial imagery is intended to provide 3-dimensional views of structures included in the door-
to-door assessments and holistically capture the entire damage swath over larger areas. A
complementary goal of the aerial imagery is to document the location and direction of tree-falls,
used in conditioning theoretical translating vortex models.

UAV flights were conducted in Eufaula, AL, Smith Station, AL and Beauregard, AL to capture
high-resolution models of the final damage state in critical regions. All data was captured via a
DJI Mavic Pro equipped with a 12 MP camera. Summaries of the flights are provided in Table 1,
with additional details in Appendix B.

Table 1: Summary of UAV flights in Alabama

Flight ID Site Description Data Product

3D Model,
18 single-family homes in Smith Station, AL
03042019_SS01B Orthomosaic

Eufaula Fire Station North 3D Model

03052019_EWF02 Eufaula Municipal Airport Orthomosaic

03052019_EWF03 Eufaula Municipal Airport Aircraft Hangar 3D Model

03052019_EWF04 City of Eufaula Spec Building 3D Model

03122019_BR01 Transect of manufactured homes in Orthomosaic,

Beauregard, AL Obliques

~½ mile transect through Beauregard, AL
03122019_BR02B Orthomosaic,
tornado encompassing locations of multiple
03122019_BR02C fatalities

Local Codes & Construction Practices
Tornadoes are not considered in the wind design of typical structures in any of the states
impacted by the storms described in this report (ASCE, 2016). Further, the maximum wind
speeds in tornadoes typically exceed the design wind speeds for typical structures, as
demonstrated in Figure 5 for the March 3, 2019 outbreak. Notwithstanding, building codes and
regulations are important to broadly contextualize the wind vulnerability of impacted regions. This
section will focus primarily on local codes and construction practices in Alabama, Florida and
Georgia. General information on the status of building codes and standards in other states can
be found in the Rating the States2 report by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

Construction for buildings in Alabama is not regulated by a mandatory statewide code unless it is
a state owned/funded building or if it is a hotel, motel, theater, or school5. Although the state
government has published an amended version of the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC)
for voluntary adoption by municipalities, under current law, local jurisdictions are permitted to
continue using any residential code adopted prior to issuance of the state-amended code.6 Any
jurisdiction without a previously-adopted residential code must, if it chooses to adopt one at any
time in the future, adopt the state-amended code. The absence of a required statewide code
complicates the process of identifying the applicable code for a particular site. It is possible that
some municipalities, particularly in rural areas, have no formally adopted code for residential
construction. Enforcement of the codes in place also varies by jurisdiction.

Construction and installation of manufactured7 homes is governed by the Alabama Manufactured

Housing Commission Administrative Code, which includes regulations for design, installation, and
anchorage of manufactured homes. These statewide provisions were effective October 1, 19818.
All counties within the State of Alabama, except Baldwin and Mobile counties, fall within Wind
Zone 1, which has an equivalent ultimate strength design wind speed of 110 mph.9 Anchors are
required to be spaced no more than 10 ft on center for Wind Zone 1 and must be able to resist
4,725 lbs in the direction of the metal ties with vertical displacement out of the substrate of no
more than 2 inches and horizontal displacement of no more than 3 inches.

6 Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, “Rating the States: 2018—An Assessment of
Residential Building Code and Enforcement Systems for Life Safety and Property Protection in Hurricane-
Prone Regions, Atlantic and Gulf Coast States,” March 2018.
7 Manufactured home here refers to any home built off-site and transported to a given site, falling under the

1976 or later Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code).
9 Based on 50-year return period, 70 mph fastest mile wind speed from AMHC wind map converted to 50-

year 3-second gust wind speed of 85 mph and then to ultimate wind speed of 110 mph per the Manufactured
Housing Institute Fact Sheet - Wind Speeds and Building Codes.

Figure 5: ASCE 7-10 design wind speeds for the study region in relation to the confirmed
tornado tracks and maximum intensity ratings (EF Scale rating) as provided in the DAT.

In Georgia, building codes are adopted at the state level through the Georgia Department of
Community Affairs (DCA), Building Codes Division and the Georgia State Codes Advisory
Committee. Mandatory codes include the International Building Code (IBC) and the International
Residential Code (IRC) for One- and Two-Story Dwellings. However, local jurisdictions may
choose whether or not they enforce the mandatory codes. Georgia also has permissive codes,
including appendices to the ICC codes known as the Disaster Resilient Building Construction
Appendices, which were created by the Georgia DCA following damaging windstorms in 2008.
These “code plus” appendices are intended to mandate structural resiliency beyond the code
minimum, but adoption is optional for local jurisdictions and personal communication with the
Georgia DCA indicated only the city of Kennesaw and the city of St. Marys have adopted the
Disaster Resilient Building Construction Appendices. The current ICC building codes adopted in
Georgia are the 2012 IBC and 2012 IRC. The 2000 IBC and IRC were adopted effective January
1, 200210. A complete history of building code adoption and enforcement in Georgia is not known
at this time.


Wind regulations for manufactured homes in Georgia are governed by the Georgia Safety Fire
Commission, which provides requirements for installation and anchorage of manufactured
homes11. The requirements closely follow the HUD requirements for the same, with ground
anchors being required to resist 4,725 lbs in the direction of the metal tie between the ground
anchor and steel chassis, and the metal ties are required to resist the same. Anchors and straps
are required within 2 ft of each section end and spaced no more than 8 ft in between. All counties
in Georgia affected by the March 3, 2019 tornadoes are in the HUD Wind Zone I, which has an
ultimate design wind speed of 110 mph.

Structures in Florida are governed by one of two building codes: (1) the Florida Residential Code
and (2) the Florida Building Code, which are based on the ICC IRC and IBC, respectively. The
Florida Residential Code provides regulations and guidance for the construction of one and two-
family dwellings and the Florida Building Code addresses all other buildings and structures. The
Florida Building Code, released in 2010, was primarily based on the 2009 International Building
Code, which did not incorporate the specifications of ASCE 7-10. Since 2012, ASCE 7-10 served
as the foundation of the Florida Building Code. According to the latest version of Florida Building
Code (2017), wind loads on buildings must be calculated using Chapters 26-30 of ASCE 7. Design
wind speeds should be determined from the maps given in Figures 1609.3(1), 1609.3(2), and
1609.3(3) of the 2017 Florida Building Code, Sixth Edition. Adoption and enforcement of the
Florida Building Code is mandatory throughout the state.

Manufactured homes in Florida are regulated by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and
Motor Vehicles. Anchorage requirements are given in Rule 15C-1.0104 of the Florida
Administrative Code12. Homes manufactured prior to 1994 are required to have anchors sufficient
to withstand an ultimate load 4,725 lbs. Homes manufactured after 1994 are required to have
anchors capable of withstanding an ultimate load of 6,000 lbs. In all wind zones, and for new and
used homes, diagonal tie-downs are required to be spaced no more than 5 ft-4 inches on center,
with anchors placed within 2 ft of each section end. All ground anchors are required to have a
stabilizer plate with minimum surface area of 180 square inches. These requirements were first
introduced in 1994, with the most recent version effective March 31, 1999.

Federal, State and Local Response

On Monday, March 4, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey extended the state of emergency previously
issued on February 23, 2019 statewide in response to the severe weather and tornadoes in this
outbreak. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp similarly declared a state of emergency for three
southwest Georgia counties (Grady, Harris and Talbot). The Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) also made a disaster declaration allowing residents of Lee County, AL to apply
for disaster assistance. As of March 14th, over 80 individual applications had been approved for
over $658,000 in assistance. While response to the impacted areas initiated swiftly, the high
number of fatalities and persons missing in the initial days following the tornadoes required special
care in the search and removal of debris throughout the impacted areas.


Storm Impacts
The following section will describe the impact of these tornadoes, organizing major findings by
the structure type. Note that this discussion combines both publicly available information compiled
as part of an initial P-VAT (that was not ultimately released but rolled into this EARR) alongside
assessments acquired by FATs.

Loss of Life and Injuries

The tornado outbreak caused 23 fatalities and 98 confirmed injuries. All fatalities occurred in the
EF4 Beauregard/Smith Station tornado that struck Lee County, AL, making it the single most
deadly tornado since the May 20, 2013 EF5 Moore, OK tornado. Reports indicate all fatalities
involved persons sheltering in homes, both manufactured and site-built. A combination of data
sources (including on-site interviews and inspections, review of news articles, and personal
communications) indicated seventeen fatalities occurred in manufactured homes, three fatalities
occurred in one modular home, one fatality occurred in a permanent home, and two fatality
locations are unknown. StEER was on-site at each of the fatality locations, and buildings located
adjacent to them, in an effort to link physical vulnerabilities observed in the structure to mortality
risk. Not every home with obvious vulnerabilities resulted in a fatality, as multiple near misses
were described by survivors sheltering within destroyed homes. Researchers are continuing to
investigate the circumstances of fatalities and known injuries in the EF4 Beauregard tornado, but
a summary of characteristics known to date provided in Table 2.

Table 2: Summary of confirmed fatality locations

Fatality Location Permanent Home Manufactured Home

Confirmed Fatalities 4 19

Homes with Fatalities 2 12

Oldest Year Built 1968 1983

Average Year Built - 1999

Most Recent Year Built 1978 2007

The exact number of buildings impacted by tornadoes in Alabama was not known at the time this
report was authored, but in the Beauregard/Smith Station EF4 tornado alone, over 500 buildings
were located within the tornado path polygon provided by the NWS Birmingham WFO. In the
Eufaula, AL EF3 tornado, at least six engineered buildings were destroyed at the Eufaula
Municipal Airport, with several more sustaining heavy damage.

Early reports of damage in Georgia (Diamant 2019, Andone and Silverman 2019) indicated that
at least 15 structures were destroyed In Talbotton, including multiple homes and at least one
apartment building. Crawford, Stewart and Talbot counties had a total of 19 destroyed homes and
another 6 homes with major damage. Another 13 homes were reported with minor damage in
Bibb, Harris, Twiggs and Wilkinson counties. As FAT-2 conducted investigations in Cairo, located
in Grady County, as well as Tallahassee, FL, emphasis will be placed on these sites in the
sections that follow.

Residential Construction
The performance of residential construction is organized by site-built homes, followed by
mobile/manufactured homes. As the loss of roof cover, sheathing and framing was well
documented in the media coverage of the outbreak, e.g., Figure 6, emphasis will be placed on
vulnerabilities observed by the FATs that enhanced mortality risk in the Alabama tornadoes.
Additional examples of overall impressions and trends in the areas surveyed by StEER FAT-2 in
Georgia and Florida that did not result in fatalities are also included for completeness.

(a) (b)


Figure 6: (a) Damaged home at 555 County Road 100, Opelika, AL (Source: Scott Fillmer,
Twitter @scottfillmer), damaged home on County Road 721 in Opelika, AL, (b) streetview
(Source: Devon Sayers - CNN) and (c) aerial (Photo by Joe Songer - perspectives.

Site-Built Home Vulnerabilities: Insufficient Attachment to Foundation

Preliminary observations indicate that proper anchorage of homes is a key element in limiting
mortality risk, regardless of whether the structure as a whole “survives” the tornado. Unfortunately,

anchorage was generally poor in the site-built homes subjected to the strongest tornadoes. For
example, a home on Cave Mill Road (built in 1980), approximately 170 yds to the left of the
estimated EF4 tornado path, was translated about 10-15 yards off of its foundation (Fig. 7a)
towards the center of the tornado path. Built of wood stud walls clad with felt paper and wood
planks, with a wooden rafter roof system clad with asphalt shingles, the home additionally lost the
entire middle (Fig. 7a) and leeward half of its gable roof, along with a segment of its leeward wall
(Fig. 7b). Most of the windows were also broken, which may have been due to both debris and
the impact during the home’s displacement. Two other site-built homes in the Cave Mill/Lee Rd
39 area were completely destroyed, but both homes were resting on unreinforced masonry block
with no evidence of positive anchorage to resist uplift. One was built in 1950 (Fig. 8), while the
other was built in 1968 (Fig. 9). The destruction of one of the homes caused the deaths of three
occupants. Another site-built home on Lee Rd 38, approximately 170 yards to the right of the
estimated tornado center, was completely destroyed with the three occupants thrown from the
home yet surviving. Debris from this home was widely scattered, but it was apparent from what
remained that the wood-frame floor system had no positive anchorage to the unreinforced
masonry block stem wall. The home was built in 1990.

While the deficiencies in the anchorage of multiple site-built homes was obvious, the question
must be asked as to whether positive anchorage would have even mattered in a tornado of this
magnitude. There is no guarantee that anchorage alone would prevent collapse or eliminate risk
of fatality, but there is evidence that proper anchorage reduces the risk of fatality. Figure 10 shows
a site-built home (constructed in 1978) that was anchored to a concrete slab with ½” anchor bolts
and 1” circular washers with nuts, spaced approximately 8 ft on center and at each leg of corner
wall junctions. The gable roof, wood-frame home was clad with a brick facade over insulation
board wall sheathing. A large porch overhang is visible on the back of the home in aerial imagery.
The center of the tornado is estimated to have passed directly over the home, causing complete
failure of the roof and the collapse of most walls. While the home was destroyed, by being
anchored to the slab the entire home was not lofted or shifted off the foundation, allowing the
occupants to survive. While one data point is by no means conclusive, the outcome illustrates the
different failure mechanisms at play when positive anchorage is present, which may improve



Figure 7: FAT-1 assessment of site-built home in Opelika, AL hit by an EF4 tornado, lifted
and moved several yards off of its foundation, (a) viewing windward side of the home and (b)
viewing leeward side with roof and wall damage.

Figure 8: Destruction of an unanchored site-built home constructed in 1950. The white car
visible in the picture was originally parked in the garage which was located over the visible
concrete slab. The photograph was taken by the NWS Birmingham survey team and made
available through the DAT.

Figure 9: Destruction of an unanchored site-built home constructed in 1968. The photograph

was taken by the NWS Birmingham survey team and made available through the Damage
Assessment Toolkit (DAT).

Figure 10: FAT-1 assessment of destruction of a site-built home constructed in 1978: (a) Pre-
tornado view of the home from Google StreetView; (b) post-tornado view of the home
courtesy of Site Tour 360; (c) and (d) ½” anchor bolts with 1” circular washers spaced
approximately 8 ft on center (photo by FAT-1) and; (e) interior view of the remaining closet
Site-Built Home Vulnerabilities: Lack of Structural Sheathing
Many homes examined by FAT-1 and FAT-2 used non-structural sheathing (e.g., insulated foam
board) rather than engineered wood sheathing. For example, FAT-1 assessed a total of 18 homes
in a small housing development just northwest of Smiths Station on Lee Road 430 in Opelika, AL,
with the damage ranging from minor to destroyed. The housing development was located on the
left side of the EF4 tornado’s path. All of the homes were built identically, although there was a
disparity in damage depending on the orientation of the home. Homes with the front side as the
windward side (facing the oncoming tornado) tended to be damaged worse than the ones with
the backside as the windward side. The homes were wood frame structures with a combination
of wood trusses and rafters for the roof structure. The wall sheathing was OSB at some corners
and insulated foam board elsewhere. The stud walls were strapped down at the corners and
inconsistently along the length of the walls, with about 3 to 4 straps per wall. An interesting
observation revealed that the wall sheathing only extended up to the bottom of the roof trusses,
leaving the gable end walls under the roof without any structural resistance. The result was that
almost all of the homes were missing the vinyl wall cladding in the attic space (Fig. 11a). There
were also many homes with a range of roof structural damage (Fig. 11b). The roof trusses were
spaced at 24 in. and were toe-nailed into the top plate with (3) 8d nails. The roof overhang was
about 12 in. The roof sheathing was OSB, with 3-tab asphalt shingles as the roof cover. Every
home assessed had at least minor roof damage (the least of which is shown in Fig. 11b), while
four homes were destroyed. The home with the worst damage was mostly swept clean off of the
slab, as shown in Figure 11c. No one was home at this location during the tornado, preventing
serious injury or death.

(a) damage to gable end
caused by wall
sheathing that does not
extend above the top
plate of the wall

(b) roof damage in this neighborhood ranged from minor cover loss (left) to significant
structural damage (right).

(c) site-built home

almost completely swept
off of the slab. The front
side of the home faced
the oncoming tornado.

Figure 11: FAT-1 assessment of small housing development in Smiths Station, AL, impacted
by EF4 tornado.

Site-Built Home Vulnerabilities: Breached Building Envelope
With the destroyed homes, it was impossible to determine what role breaching of the building
envelope had in the final damage state, but several case studies illustrate the importance of
keeping the building envelope intact. Figure 12 shows a home in Beauregard, AL, surveyed by
FAT-1, that was located approximately 120 yds to the right of the EF4 tornado’s estimated path.
The home was framed with wood stud walls clad with brick veneer over insulation board and a
wooden rafter roof system overlaid with plywood sheathing and asphalt shingles. The garage door
on the windward (nominally facing oncoming tornado) side of the home (Fig. 12a) failed, resulting
in pressurization that blew out the leeward side of the garage and along with it, a significant portion
of the roof (Fig. 12b). The front of the home (windward side) also experienced heavy roof cover
damage and several broken windows.



Figure 12: FAT-1 assessment of site-built home in Opelika, AL hit by EF4 tornado, (a)
windward side with failure of garage door and (b) leeward side directly behind the damaged
garage door.

Site-Built Homes: Performance of New Construction
Variability in performance of site-built construction was widely documented in all the FAT-
assessed regions. It was not uncommon to observe severe damage immediately adjacent to
homes with moderate to minor damage. For example, FAT-2 assessments in Tallahassee, FL
along Steeds Run documented several structures in the direct path of the EF-3, including single
family homes, garages and other outbuildings that were completely destroyed, while adjacent
structures sustained only roof cover loss (Fig. 13). In some cases, this performance appeared to
be correlated with age of construction. For example, in Cairo, GA, residential areas near 3rd Ave
SE were typified by severe damage to historic homes with minor damage to nearby homes of
newer vintage in the path of the tornado.

Furthering this trend, FAT-2 assessments along Tradition Way in Tallahassee, FL showed little
evidence of damage despite the tornado’s passage to the rear of these large, recently-constructed
(circa 2017) homes. While extensive tree damage was noted, with snapped trunks just yards from
these homes (Fig. 14), very little damage was observed. While the exact wind speeds on site are
not known with certainty, the passage of this EF-3 was capable of generating winds in excess of
130 mph. (Note that design wind speeds for new construction in this region are 114 mph, see Fig.
5 earlier).

Only one newer site-built home was directly observed by FAT-1 in the Beauregard, AL EF4
tornado. The home, located at 12868 AL 51 and built in 2006, was only 100 ft to the right of the
estimated tornado path centerline. The home suffered the complete loss of the roof system and
partial collapse of some exterior walls (Fig. 15), but provided sufficient protection of life safety.
Anchor bolts with nuts and washers were visible. Roof-to-wall connections were toe-nails.

More rigorous analysis of the role of year of construction is ongoing, as any such factors must be
properly assessed within the context of the rapid changes in wind speed that can occur throughout
the tornado path.

Figure 13: FAT-2 documentation of cross section of performance along Steeds Run in
Tallahassee, FL (from left to right), undamaged home in foreground, adjacent to home with roof
cover loss, adjacent to home that was completely destroyed.

Figure 14: FAT-2 assessment of home along Tradition Way in Tallahassee, FL with snapped
trees in close proximity to home, but little evidence of damage to the property.

Figure 15: Site-built home near the centerline of path, constructed in 2006 that experienced
complete loss of roof and partial collapse of some exterior walls. Photo courtesy of Google
Streetview and Site Tour 360.

Mobile/Manufactured Home Vulnerabilities: Overview

Similar to the observations of site-built construction, variability was also observed in the
performance of mobile homes in Florida and Alabama (Fig. 16). For the latter, mobile homes were
assessed in both Beauregard and Eufaula, with the majority being in Beauregard where most
fatalities were concentrated. Unfortunately, the debris from many destroyed mobile homes in the
Beauregard area were already cleaned up by the time access was granted. However, a few in-
depth assessments are provided below to highlight factors contributing to the failure of mobile
homes in Beauregard due to insufficient (or complete lack of) anchorage and deteriorated

Figure 16: FAT-2 assessment along Driftwood Circle in Tallahassee, FL depicts (left to right)
mobile home with minor damage, adjacent to truck flipped up against snapped trees beside
mobile home that is completely destroyed.

Mobile/Manufactured Home Vulnerabilities: Insufficient Anchorage

A double-wide mobile home at 1937 Cave Mill Road in Beauregard, AL (constructed in 2014) was
about 230 yds to the left of the estimated EF4 tornado path centerline. As seen in Figure 17, the
home was shifted several feet off of the concrete block piers (towards the tornado path centerline)
and suffered moderate roof cover damage, but held up well overall. The home did not appear to
have any ground anchors or straps along the steel frame. For context, a site-built home
constructed in 1936, approximately 300 ft closer to the center of the tornado path, experienced
the loss of its roof and partial wall collapse. This damage site illustrates the structural wind
resistance of modern manufactured homes, but also highlights the key vulnerability that prevents
them from being a viable shelter option - the lack of sufficient anchorage. Unfortunately, this lack
of positive anchorage was seen over and over again. It appears that manufacturers and installers
in many double-wide manufactured homes relied upon the dead weight of the structure to resist
uplift forces. However, without any tie-downs and unreinforced piers, there is no capacity to resist
lateral wind forces. In most homes observed with this anchorage condition where walls were still
present, FAT-1 was able to confirm HUD labels were present and in many cases inspection
certificates were also attached to the home. It is unclear how inspections could have passed with
obvious deficiencies in the lateral and vertical wind load path.

Another common anchorage condition that was observed in double-wide homes was the use of
Oliver Pan Foundation Systems, such as that shown in Figure 18. These systems provide lateral
and longitudinal bracing intended to resist Wind Zone 1 wind load requirements, but have no uplift
capacity. They were directly observed in several instances in homes where fatalities occurred.
FAT-1 also observed double-wide manufactured homes with anchorage only at the center
marriage line of the two sections of the home. These homes also performed poorly and, in at least
one instance, was associated with a fatality.

Figure 17: FAT-1 documentation of double-wide mobile home that shifted off the masonry block
piers due to complete lack of anchorage. Surrounding damage varied from complete destruction
of two single-wide manufactured homes to roof uplift of a site-built home closer to the center of
the tornado path.

Figure 18: FAT-1 documentation of an Oliver Pan Foundation System observed in a number of
failed manufactured homes.

Mobile/Manufactured Home Vulnerabilities: Weakened Anchorages
In multiple manufactured homes, anchorage was present but obviously weakened substantially.
For example, FAT-1 investigated a double-wide mobile home located south of Beauregard, along
Cave Mill Rd. The home was about 50 yds to the right of the EF4 tornado’s estimated centerline,
and it was lifted off the ground, partially flipped, and wrapped around a tree. The final state of the
structure can be seen in Figure 19. Two people were in the home at the time of the storm and
were killed. The structure was originally anchored using 32 in-long double helical ground anchors
spaced at approximately 13 ft along the front and back of the structure. They connected to the
structure by 1-¼ inch wide by 0.035 inches thick galvanized steel straps, clipped to the flange of
the I-shaped members as shown in Figure 20. Some of these anchors were pulled from the ground
and were found in the debris pile, while others failed due to the metal straps breaking. Upon
further inspection, several of the straps that broke were heavily corroded as seen in Figure 21.
Sample straps were taken from the site to undergo tensile strength testing to determine the force
required to break them.

Figure 19: FAT-1 documentation of double-wide mobile home that was lifted and wrapped
around a tree due to the EF4 tornado.

Figure 20: FAT-1 documentation of clip that attaches the metal anchor straps to the steel
chassis of the manufactured home. It did not appear that the clips failed at any location.

Figure 21: FAT-1 documentation of corroded straps at the head of the ground anchor that broke
at the point of corrosion.

Since it was a double-wide mobile home, there were two separate trailer frames holding up each
of the front half and the back half of the structure. The steel trailer foundation was made of I-
shaped members 10 in. deep with 2.75 in. wide flanges. The steel beams were spaced 8 ft apart,
with 2 ft overhangs on both sides (12 ft wide for each half, 24 ft total width). The two steel trailer
frames did not appear to be connected together at any point, although any existing connector
could have been destroyed during the storm. Upon destruction, these two halves were separated
and stacked on top of each other. It appeared that the two halves were connected using several
lag screws along the edge of the floor structure. The screws were spaced sporadically, but there
were 8 screws in a span of 15 ft. The screws were ¼” diameter and 4.5” long, but only the first
2.75” were threaded. These lag screws were installed in both directions, but they appeared to
have all failed by pulling out of the wood. No significant connectors appeared to be present in the
roof structure between the two single-wide halves, so once the lag screws failed there was very
little resistance keeping the home from ripping in half.

The actual building structure was wood-frame construction with wood trusses for the roof
structure. The exterior walls were made of 2x4 inch studs spaced at 16”, while the interior walls
used 1x4 inch studs. The sill plate around the exterior was 1x4 inch. The roof truss members were
2x2 inch with a slope of approximately 1/12. The roof sheathing was 7/16 inch OSB, with the
original roof cover being asphalt shingles. At some point, the shingles were covered by standing
seam metal panels. The two major areas of failure appeared to be the anchoring system and the
lag screws’ inability to hold the two halves of the structure together. Further effort will be made to
determine the capacity of the corroded metal straps, as well as possibly the force required to pull
the anchors from the ground.

Another example of deteriorated anchoring systems was observed at 1017 Lee Rd 39 in

Beauregard. This single-wide mobile home was located about 100 yds to the left of the EF4
tornado’s estimated path. As seen in Figure 22, the home did not flip, but the entire structure was
destroyed. One fatality occurred in this home during the storm. The home was shifted several feet
off of the concrete block piers and the anchor straps were broken. The anchors appeared to be
the common double helical type, but none were out of the ground to verify. The anchors were
spaced at 10 to 11 ft, and all had stabilizer plates, as shown in Figure 23. The stabilizer plates
may have been the reason that some of the anchors were not pulled from the ground. However,
all of the metal anchor straps broke, allowing the frame to shift off of its foundation. It appeared
that most broke in sections that were heavily corroded, as shown in Figure 23. The structure itself
was wood-frame construction, with exterior walls made of 2x4 inch studs and interior walls made
of 2x3 inch studs. The sill plate around the exterior was 1x4 inch. The fatality in this case was not
due to the home flipping or rolling, but because the roof and walls were swept clean off of the
steel trailer frame.

Corroded straps were a recurring theme in the FAT-1 investigations of manufactured homes, both
destroyed and not. Most often the corrosion in the straps occurred at or near the ground anchors.
The residual capacity of these straps is likely very small and, once failure initiates at one of these
weak points, failure can easily propagate to the rest of the structure. It is recommended that further
inspections be conducted of manufactured homes, whether affected by the recent tornadoes or
not, to understand the scope of this vulnerability.

Figure 22: FAT-1 documentation of single-wide mobile home that was destroyed by the EF4

(a) (b)

Figure 23: (a) FAT-1’s identification of a stabilizer plate that may have prevented the anchor
from pulling out of the ground; (b) metal anchor strap that was heavily corroded at the location
of failure.

Commercial Construction
Commercial construction in the surveyed areas was primarily single-story isolated buildings or
multi-unit strip mall-style construction, employing a variety of typologies: steel frames, metal
building systems, unreinforced masonry systems and wood framed construction (e.g., Fig. 24). In
the commercial district around 1st Ave NE and 2nd Ave SE in Cairo, GA, mixed performance was
observed. Common failures included envelope damage (Fig. 25 a, b) and failures of unreinforced
masonry walls (Fig. 25 c,d). One of the more notable failures here was of a metal building system
used for retail purposes with a bowed windward wall and prying of the leading edge of the roof
system, including steel framing, completely over onto itself (Fig. 26). Unlike the hangar and critical
facilities described in the subsequent sections, which showed catastrophic collapses, the
subdivision of this metal building into multiple retail units may have proved sufficient to halt the
progressive collapse of the building.

Figure 24: Damaged business (Buck Wild Saloon) at 17695 US Highway 280, Smiths Station,
AL, (left) interior view showing loss of roof cover and (right) exterior view showing detached
gable at entrance wall (Source: Sara Palczewski - AP)

(a) cladding loss at 133 2nd Ave SE (Source: (b) roof damage at 393 2nd Ave SE (Source:
Alicia Devine - Tallahassee Democrat) Alicia Devine - Tallahassee Democrat)

(c) unreinforced masonry commercial building (d) unreinforced masonry wall failure at 139
with major roof and wall damage (Source: 2nd Ave SE (Source: Alicia Devine -
Tiffany Butler, Tallahassee Democrat)

Figure 25: Commercial construction damaged by EF2 tornado in Cairo, GA.



Figure 26: Media photo of commercial metal building system at 427 2nd Ave SE, Cairo, GA
(Source: Photo by Shannon Harrell via Tallahassee Democrat); (b) FAT-2 survey of windward
wall with “peeled” back roof and twisted roof framing.
Catastrophic failure of a metal building also occurred in the EF2 Eufaula, AL tornado, where a
building constructed in 2008 fully collapsed (Fig. 27). Several of the moment frames on the
northeast side of the building, spaced at 25 ft on center, were flipped about the long axis of the
200 ft by 200 ft building. The building appeared to have initially been drawn in towards the center
of the tornado path, as indicated by the direction of fall of the interior columns, before being pulled
parallel to the path of the tornado as it translated past. Despite being constructed as a spec
building in 2008, the building did not appear to be fully utilized. The interior slab had not been
finished, and columns were mounted in reinforced masonry block piers atop concrete footings, as
shown in Figure 28. Reinforcement was not detailed in any way to improve the pullout capacity of
the anchor-to-grout connection.

Figure 27: FAT-1 UAV documentation of complete failure of a metal building in Eufaula, AL
located approximately 1/2 mile from the Eufaula Municipal Airport. Approximate tornado path is
indicated by the red arrow.

Figure 28: FAT-1 documentation of reinforced masonry block footings into which columns were
anchored. (Left) Intact pier with (4) anchor bolts visible; (Right) Fractured pier exposing

Critical Facilities
There were no reports of major damage to healthcare facilities, though the Navicent Health
Medical Center along 1st St. and Hemlock St. in Macon, GA, had 5 windows on its southeast face
broken and a large flag pole in front of the hospital was bent 90 degrees approximately 3 feet
from the base (Fig. 29). The NWS Peachtree WFO indicated an EF0 tornado passed very close
to where the damage was reported.

Figure 29: Bent flagpole at Navicent Health in Macon, GA (Source: Jayla Whitfield Twitter

In Eufaula, AL, the Eufaula Fire Station North was destroyed by the EF2 tornado. This metal
building system built in 2012 was located beside the Eufaula Municipal Airport, approximately 50
yds to the right of the tornado’s estimated path. At the time of its destruction, two on-duty
firefighters were inside the building and sheltered in one of the interior rooms. Thankfully, neither
of them experienced injuries, but the building was destroyed around them. Also, much of the
equipment inside the station was damaged, including two fire engines. The building was assessed
by FAT-1 on March 5, two days after the storm. At the time of the assessment, no debris had
been cleared yet, so the building was mostly in the same state as it was immediately following
the storm. The only difference was that the front wall that collapsed inward, as seen in Figure 30,
was temporarily lifted to get the trucks out, and then released back to its stable state. However,
according to the Fire Sergeant on site, the wall immediately after the storm was actually resting
closer to the ground than it was the day of the assessment.

Figure 30: FAT-1 documentation of front wall of the Eufaula Fire Station, destroyed by an EF2

It appeared that one of the initial failures in the structure was the large overhead doors on the
front wall, which were blown inward. Once they were breached, the inside of the building became
positively pressurized and blew the back wall out (Fig. 31). Another location of failure was the
front left column, which was the windward corner of the building. The time of the column failure
relative to the other windward structural components is unknown, but it appeared that the column
failed due to shearing of the baseplate and the welds (Fig. 32). Once the column failed inwardly,
the two walls supported by it also collapsed inward, as seen in Figs. 30 (front wall) and 33 (side
wall). Little remained of the roofing metal panels, as well as much of the wall cladding panels. The
majority of the roof structure on the windward half of the building was completely destroyed,
including both the purlins and the girders. The post-tornado damage state was documented by
FAT-1 with a UAV.

Figure 31: FAT-1 documentation of back wall of the Eufaula Fire Station, blown outward after
the inside of the building became pressurized.

Figure 32: FAT-1 documentation of most windward column of the Eufaula Fire Station, which
failed due to the shearing of the baseplate and the welds.

Figure 33: FAT-1 documentation of side wall of the Eufaula Fire Station, partially windward, that
collapsed inward.

Airport Facilities
FAT-1 also assessed the Eufaula Municipal Airport, which had several engineered metal buildings
directly in the path of the EF2 tornado as shown in Figure 34. The airport complex experienced
damage to multiple structures including six aircraft hangars that were completely destroyed, with
several housed aircraft damaged. Figure 35 documents a steel-frame aircraft hangar that was
completely swept off its foundation due to failures at the column base plates. Closer inspection
indicated that the base plates had been post-installed into the concrete slab in multiple locations.
The debonding failure of the post-installed anchors is likely the result of poor construction
technique or materials, and ultimately resulted in a loss of uplift capacity that may have
accelerated the complete failure. A large steel-frame enclosed aircraft hangar was also
completely destroyed, likely instigated by failure of its large aircraft hangar door (Fig. 36). Forensic
investigation of these structures is ongoing.

A single-wide mobile home at the Eufaula Municipal Airport, located just to the right of the EF2
tornado’s estimated path, was also documented by FAT-1. It performed better than many of the
steel frame buildings near it, likely due to being shielded by adjacent large buildings. The mobile
home was knocked off of its concrete block piers (Fig. 37a) and the windward side wall was
completely destroyed (Fig. 37b), but the remainder of the wood-framed construction was intact.
There were ground anchors attached to the structure, but the amount and spacing is unknown.

1 - Destroyed ASOS station 2 - Aircraft Hangar (2006) 3 - Aircraft Hangar (2012)

4 - Double-cantilever Hangar 5 - Aircraft Hangar 6 - Telecommunication tower (2011)

Figure 34: EF2 tornado path through Weedon Field at the Eufaula Municipal Airport with
identification of affected buildings (year built, if known, in parentheses). Approximate direction of
tornado translation is indicated by the red arrow.

Figure 35: FAT-1 assessment of open steel-frame aircraft hangar at Eufaula Municipal Airport
swept off of foundation by EF2 tornado (left image from the original slab). The structure was
built in 2006, but inspection of slab indicated original column base plates had been removed
and post-installed adjacent to the original locations.

Figure 36: FAT-1 assessment of large steel-frame enclosed aircraft hangar at Eufaula
Municipal Airport completely destroyed by EF2 tornado.



Figure 37: FAT-1 assessment of single-wide mobile home at the Eufaula airport: (a) side-view
illustrates that structure was knocked off of its foundation. The steel frame and metal panels in
the background belong to a large aircraft hangar that may have shielded the mobile home
from the most intense winds; (b) view from destroyed windward side wall.

Non-building Structures
A 100-ft tall telecommunications tower, also located at the Eufaula Municipal Airport and in the
direct path of the tornado, suffered minor damage to some instrumentation but resisted collapse
(Fig. 38). The nearby structural damage indicated an upper-end EF2 tornado, which has wind
speeds of around 125-135 mph. FAT-1 was provided access to the structural drawings to the
tower with the intent of estimating an upper bound wind speed. The tower is a hollow concrete

shaft with a concrete foundation. The diameter of the tower at the base is 32.125 inches with a
wall thickness of 0.25 inches, and the top of the 100 foot tower has a diameter of 12 inches and
a wall thickness of 0.1875 inches. The tower was designed to the TIA-222-G standard as a
Structure Class III, with an Exposure Category C and a Topographic Category of 1. The overall
design wind speed was a 100 mph 3-sec gust. The load factor used for wind loads was 1.6 and
the importance factor for a Structure Class III was 1.15. After factoring the loads and including
the importance factor, the equivalent ultimate design wind speed was 136 mph. This provides an
upper bound wind speed that supports the EF2 rating (with maximum estimated wind speed of
132 mph) designated by the National Weather Service.

Figure 38: FAT-1 UAV image of communication tower at Eufaula Municipal Airport that
withstood the EF2 tornado winds.

An ASOS station (KEUF) at the Eufaula Municipal Airport was directly in the path of the tornado
(approximately 2000 ft upwind of the telecommunications tower) and was destroyed (Fig. 39). The
hard drive and data collection cards were extracted by the NWS Birmingham office and sent to
NWS HQ to attempt to recover the data measured up until its destruction. A small wooden fence
surrounding the ASOS station may have been a source of wind-borne debris that accelerated
failure of the station.

Figure 39: FAT-1 documentation of destruction of the KEUF ASOS station at the Eufaula
Municipal Airport.

Lifelines: Power and Telecommunications

As of 11:30 a.m. CST March 4, 2019, 2,170 customers out of 60,424 (3.52%) in Lee County, 95
customers out of 2,373 (2.93%) in Macon County, and 306 of 22,073 customers in Russell County
were without power. As Table 3 outlines, power was progressively restored on March 4 and as of
10 am CST March 5, power has been restored to all customers except for four customers in
Russell County. In Georgia, more than 16,000 residents lost electricity on March 3, but no
additional information was available regarding the timeline over which service was restored.

Table 3: Active power outages in affected Alabama counties
Lee Macon Russell
Time/Date County County County

11:30 am Mar. 2,170 95 306

04, 2019

1:30 pm Mar. 1,466 48 18

04, 2019

3:00 pm Mar. 1,436 49 11

04, 2019

5:00 pm Mar. 1,124 4 4

04, 2019


Damaged utility poles in

Cairo, GA (Source:
Shannon Harrell via
Tallahassee Democrat)

Cellular service was limited in Smith Station, AL after the EF4 tornado due to the collapse of a
cell tower near US-280 (Fig. 40). A video produced by WeatherNation captures the tower
collapsing in the direction of the tornado path, several seconds prior to damage being observed
to an adjacent building. The sequence of events and direction of tower fall is interesting. Typically,
one would expect near-surface winds in advance of the tornado to be driven by the radial inflow
towards the tornado center, as demonstrated in StEER’s EARR on the January 19, 2019
tornadoes13 and accompanying security camera footage14. Based on Google Earth historical
imagery, the tower was constructed after 1999 and before 2006. More details are being pursued
but are not available at the time of this report. In the absence of unusual design requirements, the
tower would fall under more or less the same TIA-222 design guidelines as the
telecommunications tower that failed at the Eufaula Municipal Airport (described earlier). The
ultimate design wind speed would have been 126 mph if designed as a Category II structure, or
136 mph if designed as a Category III structure.


Figure 40: A fallen cell tower lies across Route 280, blocking traffic in Smiths Station

Lifelines: Transportation Infrastructure

The collapse of the aforementioned cell phone tower temporarily blocked US Highway 280 (Fig.
40). Several county roads in Lee County were also inaccessible due to the tornados as of March
3 (Montgomery Advertiser): Lee Rd. 166 and 165 at LR 40, Lee Rd. 721, and Lee Roads 38 and

Current Conditions
Many roads in the hardest hit areas of Lee County, AL were initially restricted, with officials
encouraging alternate routes (Jones 2019):
● Lee Rd. 166 at Lee Rd. 40
● Lee Rd. 165 at Lee Rd. 40
● Lee Rd. 721
● Lee Rd. 38
● Lee Rd. 39
Similar advisories were posted in Columbus, GA for Biggers Rd. and River Rd. from Copper
Beeches to Biggers Rd. The area southwest of Beauregard, just off of Lee Rd 39 was opened for
access on March 9.

FAT were able to access all areas documented in this report, receiving special permission from
officials to access the aircraft hangars at the Eufaula Municipal Airport. No issues with
connectivity, power or access were otherwise noted in the assessed regions of Alabama, Florida
and Georgia.

Recommendations for Further Study
StEER’s Field Assessment Teams primarily focused assessments on four areas impacted by the
tornadoes on March 3, 2019: Beauregard, AL (residential areas), Eufaula, AL (critical facilities,
airport), Cairo, GA (commercial/residential) and Tallahassee, FL (residential). While each of these
areas was well canvassed by the Field Assessment Teams, StEER was not able to assess other
areas impacted by these same or other tornadoes. As a result of the extent of this study as well
as the insights gained through the assessments conducted by the Field Assessment Teams,
StEER suggests the following recommendations for future study:

1. Continue to investigate “success” stories, where buildings performed better relative to the
surroundings. The Field Assessment Team members noted multiple such instances, but
typically were not able to follow up on the circumstances during initial field studies.
2. Investigate the physical vulnerabilities of existing mobile homes in light of the requirements
for manufactured housing provided in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Particular attention
should be given to the relative occurrence of corroded straps, the frequency at which
missing or improper anchorage is observed, and the use of alternative anchorage systems
such as the Oliver Pan system.
3. Investigate best available refuge options for mobile home residents in both single-wide
and double-wide mobile homes where interior rooms are generally not present. While
sheltering in a mobile home is not recommended, many residents are limited in their
sheltering options, particularly in rural settings when the distance to the nearest
community shelter is prohibitive.
4. Complete a full investigation into circumstances of fatalities, severe injuries and near-miss
survivals in order to better understand the factors that enhance mortality risk.
5. Document vehicular movements in the recent tornadoes.

StEER gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the National Science Foundation under
Award CMMI-1841667. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed
in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National
Science Foundation. The lead author also gratefully acknowledges the support provided by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration VORTEX-SE project (NA17OAR4590191),
specifically for investigating manufactured home vulnerability, and the contributions of the lead PI
on this VORTEX-SE project, Stephen Strader, Assistant Professor of Geography and the
Environment at Villanova University.

StEER also acknowledges the contributions of Daphne LaDue, Senior Research Scientist at the
University of Oklahoma and Lara Mayeux, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of
Oklahoma, who conducted interviews of survivors following the Lee County, AL tornadoes and
shared insights related to structural performance gleaned from the interviews.

The sharing of videos, damage reports and briefings via Slack was tremendously helpful and
much appreciated. These collaborations and exchanges of critical data after this tornado outbreak
benefited greatly from the work of the DesignSafe CI team who continuously supported and
responded to StEER’s emerging needs.

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and Georgia, March 4, 2019, 0758 UTC”
● Brasch B., “‘Thankful’ — In Georgia, tornado flattens homes but spares lives, March 5,
2019, 0053 UTC”
● Cullinane, S, Sterling, J., and McLaughlin, E.C. “EF-4 tornado brought 170 mph winds
and left a track almost a mile wide amid storms that killed 23 in Alabama”. CNN.
● Diamant, A. “Gov. Kemp declares state of emergency in counties hit by tornadoes,
March 4, 2019, 2121 UTC”
● Jones, A., “Road closures: Several roads shut down in the aftermath of tornadoes in the
Chattahoochee Valley, March 5, 2019, 1413 UTC”
● Lada, B. and Mitchell, C. “Tornado victims pick up the pieces in Alabama after deadliest
outbreak in 6 years, March 5 2019, 2150 UTC”
● National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma, “Day 1
Convective Outlook, March 3, 2019, 1300 UTC.”
● National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, Norman, Oklahoma, “Day 1
Convective Outlook, March 3, 2019, 1630 UTC.”
● Siano, N. and Pacheco, A. “Tornadoes hit Alabama, 23 killed in Lee County: What we
know so far”. Montgomery Advertiser.
● The Weather Channel, Beauregard, Alabama, “Alabama Tornado Aftermath: 3 Children
Among Dead as Search Continues For Missing, March 5, 2019, 1230 UTC”

Appendix A: Confirmed Tornadoes on March 3, 2019
Tornadoes surveyed by StEER FAT-1 and FAT-2 shaded in yellow.

Table A.1: Confirmed Tornadoes on March 3, 2019

No. Rating Path Counties Injuries Fatalities

1 EF4 (AL) 68.8 Macon (AL), Lee (AL), Muscogee 90 23

EF3 (GA) (GA), Harris (GA) and Talbot (GA)

2 EF3 6.5 Leon (FL) and Jefferson (FL) 2 0

3 EF2 31 Barbour (AL) Quitman (GA), 0 0

Stewart (GA) and Webster (GA)

4 EF2 29.15 Macon (AL) and Lee (AL) 1 0

5 EF2 6.7 Crawford (GA) and Peach (GA) 0 0

6 EF2 6.68 Barbour (AL) 0 0

7 EF2 5.05 Edgefield (SC) 0 0

8 EF2 2.69 Grady (GA) 2 0

9 EF2 1.52 Columbia (GA) 0 0

10 EF1 10.92 Lexington (SC) 0 0

11 EF1 7.85 Liberty (GA) 0 0

12 EF1 7.5 Harris (GA) 0 0

13 EF1 5.27 Washington (FL) and Jackson (FL) 0 0

14 EF1 5.22 Geneva (AL) 1 0

15 EF1 4.59 Decatur (GA) 0 0

16 EF1 4.26 Miller (GA) 1 0

17 EF1 3.3 Wilkinson (GA) 0 0

18 EF1 2.66 Crenshaw (AL) 0 0

19 EF1 2.6 Washington (AL) 0 0

20 EF1 2.12 Gadsden (FL) 0 0

21 EF1 1.93 Lexington (SC) 0 0

22 EF1 1.5 Washington (GA) 0 0

Table A.1: Confirmed Tornadoes on March 3, 2019 (con’t)

No. Rating Path Counties Injuries Fatalities


23 EF1 1.46 Richland (SC) 0 0

24 EF1 1.2 Twiggs (GA) 0 0

25 EF1 0.5 Washington (GA) 0 0

26 EF1 0.27 Butler (AL) 0 0

27 EF1 0.2 Washington (GA) 0 0

28 EF1 0.17 Washington (AL) 0 0

29 EF0 18.41 Wakulla (FL) 0 0

30 EF0 12.12 Walton (FL) 0 0

31 EF0 4.1 Telfair (GA) 0 0

32 EF0 0.61 Autauga (AL) 0 0

33 EF0 0.41 Bullock (AL) 0 0

34 EF0 0.4 Telfair (GA) 0 0

Appendix B: UAV Flight Details

Table B.1: Technical parameters of UAV flights

Flight ID Start Flight Flight Camera Side Front Altitude Number
Time Duration Pattern Angle Overlap Overlap Images

03042019 4:54 00:19:04 Double 45 80 80 30.5 m 427

_SS01A PM ET Grid

03042019 5:18 00:16:16 Double 45 80 80 30.5 m 363

_SS01B PM ET Grid

03052019 11:11 00:05:21 Double 45 80 80 15 m 169

_EWF01A AM ET Grid

03052019 11:18 00:08:18 Double 60 80 80 20 m 206

_EWF01B AM ET Grid

03052019 12:00 00:25:21 Single 80 70 70 61 m 365

_EWF02 PM ET Grid

03052019 12:56 00:12:05 Double 60 80 80 35 m 246

_EWF03 PM ET Grid

03052019 4:23 00:22:01 Double 60 80 80 35 m 479

_EWF04 PM ET Grid

03122019 10:42 00:17:15 Grid 55 70 70 38 m 360


03122019 4:26 00:20:47 Grid 80 70 70 38 m 490


03122019 4:49 00:26:52 Grid 80 70 70 38 m 504


03122019 5:22 00:21:00 Grid 80 70 70 38 m 490


About StEER
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a 2-year EAGER grant (CMMI 1841667) to a
consortium of universities to form the Structural Extreme Events Reconnaissance (StEER)
Network (see for more details). StEER builds societal resilience by
generating new knowledge on the performance of the built environment through impactful post-
disaster reconnaissance disseminated to affected communities. StEER achieves this vision by:
(1) deepening structural engineers’ capacity for post-event reconnaissance by promoting
community-driven standards, best practices, and training; (2) coordination leveraging its
distributed network of members and partners for early, efficient and impactful responses to
disasters; and (3) collaboration that broadly engages communities of research, practice and
policy to accelerate learning from disasters. StEER works closely with other extreme event
reconnaissance organizations and the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure
(NHERI) to foster greater potentials for truly impactful interdisciplinary reconnaissance after

Under the banner of NHERI's CONVERGE node, StEER works closely with the wider Extreme
Events Reconnaissance consortium including the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance
(GEER) Association and the networks for Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Extreme
Events Research (ISEEER) and Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER), as well as
the NHERI RAPID equipment facility and NHERI DesignSafe CI, long-term home to all StEER
data and reports. While the StEER network currently consists of the three primary nodes located
at the University of Notre Dame (Coordinating Node), University of Florida (Atlantic/Gulf Regional
Node), and University of California, Berkeley (Pacific Regional Node), StEER aspires to build a
network of regional nodes worldwide to enable swift and high quality responses to major disasters

StEER’s founding organizational structure includes a governance layer comprised of core

leadership with Associate Directors for each of the primary hazards as well as cross-cutting areas
of Assessment Technologies and Data Standards, led by the following individuals:
● Tracy Kijewski-Correa (PI), University of Notre Dame, serves as StEER Director
responsible with overseeing the design and operationalization of the network.
● Khalid Mosalam (co-PI), University of California, Berkeley, serves as StEER
Associate Director for Seismic Hazards, leading StEER’s Pacific Regional node and
serving as primary liaison to the Earthquake Engineering community.
● David O. Prevatt (co-PI), University of Florida, serves as StEER Associate Director
for Wind Hazards, leading StEER’s Atlantic/Gulf Regional node and serving as primary
liaison to the Wind Engineering community.
● Ian Robertson (co-PI), University of Hawai’i at Manoa, serves as StEER Associate
Director for Assessment Technologies, guiding StEER’s development of a robust
approach to damage assessment across the hazards.
● David Roueche (co-PI), Auburn University, serves as StEER Associate Director for
Data Standards, ensuring StEER processes deliver reliable and standardized
reconnaissance data.

StEER’s response to these tornadoes preceded the formation of its official policies, protocols
and membership, which are still in active development. All policies, procedures and protocols
described in this report should be considered preliminary and will be refined with community
input as part of StEER’s operationalization in 2018-2019.

StEER Event Report Library
Roueche, David; Davis, Brett; Hodges, Courtney; Rittelmeyer, Brandon; Turner, Kelly; Kijewski-
Correa, Tracy; Prevatt, David; Robertson, Ian; Mosalam, Khalid, (2019-01-30), "StEER - 19
EARLY ACCESS RECONNAISSANCE REPORT (EARR)" , DesignSafe-CI [publisher], Dataset,
doi:10.17603/ds2-eb6e-tr31 [DOI:].
Robertson, Ian; Esteban, Miguel; Stolle, Jacob; Takabatake, Tomoyuki; mulchandani, Harish;
Kijewski-Correa, Tracy; Prevatt, David; Roueche, David; Mosalam, Khalid, (2019-01-15), "StEER
Dataset, doi:10.17603/DS2JD7T [DOI:]

Robertson, Ian; Head, Monique; Roueche, David; Wibowo, Hartanto; Kijewski-Correa, Tracy;
Mosalam, Khalid; Prevatt, David, (2018-12-31), "STEER - SUNDA STRAIT TSUNAMI
DesignSafe-CI [publisher], Dataset, doi:10.17603/DS2Q98T

Mosalam, Khalid; Kijewski-Correa, Tracy; Hassan, Wael; Archbold, Jorge; Marshall, Justin;
Mavroeidis, George; Muin, Sifat; mulchandani, Harish; Peng, Han; Pretell Ductram, Anthony
Renmin; Prevatt, David; Robertson, Ian; Roueche, David, (2018-12-06), "STEER - EERI ALASKA
DesignSafe-CI [publisher], Dataset, doi:10.17603/DS2MQ38 [DOI:]

Roueche, David; Cleary, John; Gurley, Kurtis; Marshall, Justin; Pinelli, Jean-Paul; Prevatt, David;
Smith, Daniel; Alipour, Alice; Angeles, Karen; Davis, Brett; Gonzalez, Camila; Lenjani, Ali;
mulchandani, Harish; Musetich, Matthew; Salman, Abdullahi; Kijewski-Correa, Tracy; Robertson,
Ian; Mosalam, Khalid, (2018-10-25), "StEER - HURRICANE MICHAEL: FIELD ASSESSMENT
[publisher], Dataset, doi:10.17603/DS2G41M [DOI:]

Alipour, Alice; Aly, Aly Mousaad; Davis, Brett; Gutierrez Soto, Mariantonieta; Kijewski-Correa,
Tracy; Lenjani, Ali; Lichty, Benjamin; Miner, Nathan; Roueche, David; Salman, Abdullahi; Smith,
Daniel; Sutley, Elaina; Mosalam, Khalid; Prevatt, David; Robertson, Ian, (2018-10-19), "STEER -
DesignSafe-CI [publisher], Dataset, doi:10.17603/DS2RH71 [DOI:]

Hu, Fan; Robertson, Ian; Mosalam, Khalid; Gunay, Selim; Kijewski-Correa, Tracy; Peng, Han;
Prevatt, David; Cohen, Jade, (2018-10-11), "StEER - 2018 HAITI EARTHQUAKE: PRELIMINARY
VIRTUAL ASSESSMENT TEAM (P-VAT) REPORT" , DesignSafe-CI [publisher], Dataset,
doi:10.17603/DS2Z69H [DOI:]

Robertson, Ian; Kijewski-Correa, Tracy; Roueche, David; Prevatt, David, (2018-10-04), “PALU
ASSESSMENT TEAM (PVAT) REPORT”, DesignSafe-CI [publisher], Dataset,
doi:10.17603/DS2XD5S [DOI:]

Barnes, Robert; Lytle, Blake; Rogers, Spencer; Pei, Weichiang; Kijewski-Correa, Tracy;
Gonzalez, Camila; u, Fan; Musetich, Matthew; Peng, Han; Prevatt, David; Roueche, David;
Salman, Abdullahi; Mosalam, Khalid; Robertson, Ian, (2018-09-25), "HURRICANE FLORENCE:
(EARR)" , DesignSafe-CI [publisher], Dataset, doi:10.17603/DS2TT3G [DOI:]