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 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:
Identify the possible cause(s) of the elevated fatality rates that were observed in the EF4 Beauregard/Smith Station, AL tornado.
Document the performance of engineered buildings and critical facilities impacted by the tornadoes.
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:
Site-built and manufactured homes;
Critical facilities (fire station, telecommunication tower)
Warehouses and metal buildings.
Access the full report HERE.