Is Shoddy Construction To Blame for Dallas Tornado Damage?

The damage rang “alarm bells” for one forensic engineer, who saw how damage at one Dallas-area elementary school could indicate systemic construction weaknesses.

By Hady MawajdehJanuary 4, 2016 4:36 pm, , ,

Emotions can run high after a natural disaster. After the Christmas weekend twisters in North Texas, many have been asking what could have been done to better prepare for such an event.

The answer may be much more than previously thought.

Tim Marshall, a forensic engineer and a meteorologist who works at Haag Global Engineering, recently volunteered to work as part of the damage survey team for the Fort Worth office of the National Weather Service. As he’s been exploring the damage in North Texas, Marshall has found lots of faults in the construction of homes and schools in the area.

Marshall says he met with an official at Donald T. Shields Elementary School in Red Oak, south of Dallas.

“I was alarmed to find that walls had simply fallen out of the school and were just lying on the grass,” he says. “When I started taking a closer look, I found that the walls were not connected properly.”

The walls were not attached to each other, the foundation or the roof, Marshall says. The walls were merely “stuck on, for lack of a better word,” to the structure itself. “The structure did fine and is not damaged,” he says. “But the walls were just attached on the perimeter of this building.”

Marshall says “connection issues” in structures in the state are “not uncommon,” as he has found the same kinds of problems in homes, other schools and buildings in the area. “And, of course, the tornado is going to exploit any weakness,” he says.

He says as a volunteer from the Weather Service, he could only offer recommendations for how to prevent damage of this degree from happening again. Marshall says he “would welcome” further inspections by the state.

“I am concerned about the other walls that did not fail there. Those need to be looked at as well,” he says. “It’s up to others to come in and do that work.”