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National Weather Service: Proper foundation anchors not used in many of the homes destroyed by tornado

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FAULKNER COUNTY -
At 7:25 p.m. on April 27, 2014 a tornado was confirmed by State Police in Roland, prompting a Tornado Emergency for Mayflower and Vilonia.

The tornado stripped trees, sent RVs flying and swept homes off their foundations.

16 lives were taken. Most of those killed were seeking shelter in their homes, behind walls that buckled, crumbled and were stripped away.

"The engineers would say flat out that no matter which it was, those houses would have been destroyed and no matter what type of foundation they 
had, because a tornado that strong is going to sweep away houses," said John Robinson.

As the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service's North Little Rock office, Robinson is in charge of sending out life-
saving weather warnings to the public.

He was also part of the team that surveyed the damage, ultimately rating the tornado an EF-4.

This took into account that many of the homes were removed from their foundations with only slabs remaining.

A colleague, Senior Forecaster John Lewis, stated in an article that in the past, that might be justification for an F-5 rating on the original scale. 

But today, the empty foundations left behind aren't enough to warrant the higher rating. It also depends on the quality of construction.

And with many of the homes surveyed, the construction was lacking.

Looking at the National Weather Service's Storm Damage Viewer, official comments note a lack of proper foundation anchoring mechanisms and multiple homes no anchor bolts used in foundations.

Without proper anchor bolts, it took less wind to sweep houses away, according to Lewis, who references Dr. David Prevatt, an assistant professor of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida. 

Dr. Prevatt specializes in extreme wind damage to homes and told Channel 7, "The building codes in Arkansas were not developed for tornadoes and therefore it's not surprising that buildings constructed to that standard cannot survive any tornado." 

But Prevatt said one of the biggest issues is not the code, but how well it's enforced, adding, "Most of the homes destroyed in Arkansas did not appear to have anchor bolts with nuts and washers. This is a direct result of a lack of enforcement of the building codes."

Bret Franks has been building homes for 15 years. His team follows the state building code, using the required anchor bolts. 

But he agreed it can be difficult for others to know what kind of foundation anchor is used after the home is built. 

"In cases where it's built on a concrete slab, the walls and everything are already in place, a home inspector's not going to be able to see that," Franks said. "The only person that's going to be able to see that is the building code inspector, and he's the one who comes out after we've got the house framed up and looks at everything before we insulate and cover the walls up with sheet rock."

Could the use of regulation foundation anchors have saved homes and lives? 

The National Weather Service says for those directly in the storm's path, it may not have made a difference. 

"I think the wind engineers would probably say with an EF-4 most of the houses would be destroyed anyway," Robinson said.

For those concerned about their home's construction or just looking for an extra safety feature, Franks suggests having a tornado shelter installed in your home.