Clarksville-Montgomery County: Inspecting the tornado damage

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The tornadoes from Dec. 9, 2023, slid some homes off their foundations, but the National Weather Service (NWS) said the wind alone was not strong enough to do that.

The survey team questioned whether some of the homes in Montgomery County were properly fastened down to their foundations.

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Below is one of those houses that slid off its foundation on Kendall Drive just outside Clarksville city limits.

(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)
(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

When the NWS surveyed this house, they noted, “It was attached with straight nails every two feet.” The EF-2 winds of 120 mph should not have done that. That would take an EF-4 or EF-5.

(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)
(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

Two houses down, the NWS’s Krissy Hurley noticed something else that was peculiar.

(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)
(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

“I can remember that the house was completely destroyed, blown right off the foundation, but the maple tree in the front yard looked untouched,” Hurley recalled. “So, if you are going to have an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado, you would expect that tree to be completely gone.”

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In this case, she noted “straight nails used along with bolt screws.”

(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)
(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

These houses were built in 1996. Montgomery County Building Codes Commissioner Rod Streeter told News 2 that the 1994 standard building code adopted by the Montgomery County Commission says:

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

Within Clarksville city limits, four homes were destroyed on Henry Place Boulevard. This is where three people lost their lives when the tornado reached EF-3 strength with wind speeds of 150 mph.

(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)
(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

At one of the houses here, it was noted “Some screws and bolts to the foundation, but mostly straight nails.”

(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)
(Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

These houses come under the Clarksville city codes. Clarksville Codes Interim Director Justin Crosby said they were bolted down and up to code, and there’s a reason why bolts and nails were both seen.

“These houses, I know that they were on a slab,” Crosby said. “So, what you would have is a footing and a concrete slab. Most of the time those are together. It would be a monolithic slab with a sill plate bolted to the monolithic slab. There were some pictures on a NOAA website that did show a sill plate bolted to the foundation, and nails at the bottom of the wall that would have been nailed down to the sill plate, which would have been done properly at the time of construction.”

It should be noted that this particular house did not appear to have slid off of its foundation.

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Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said anyone with concerns should contact his office at 931-552-7479.

“If there is a concern by a citizen about construction, please let us know,” Pitts said. “Call us, because we’ll go out and do everything we can to look at it to make sure it was done right, but I also want to say that we hold our builders and others to a very high standard.”

Both the Montgomery County Codes Commissioner and the Clarksville City Codes Commissioner said the codes are constantly being updated to improve safety.

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