Safety Of Moore School Structures Criticized

Friday, February 21st 2014, 7:45 pm
By: News 9

A report in the Journal Record highlights structural problems with the two elementary schools heavily damaged in the May 20 tornado.

While rebuilding is well underway at both Briarwood and Plaza Towers, there are still questions about what caused the buildings to collapse during the storm.

The Journal Record published an article sharing the opinions of members with a damage assessment team with the American Society of Civil Engineers. The team surveyed the rubble and even called Plaza Towers a "death trap."

"I think to call any school a death trap is sort of implying that there's something specifically wrong with this school that typically wouldn't be wrong," said John Joyce, another member of the ASCE team. 

"And really, any building in Oklahoma that is not specifically designed as a storm shelter, that when a tornado comes along… buildings are just not designed for those types of forces."

The Journal Record quoted another team member who said, "Odds are, if the schools had been built right, the walls would not have fallen."

Joyce said that is not the entire story.

"It's a whole [other] issue to say that didn't meet code, if something would have been done differently the building would have stood. Those are all big leaps that I wouldn't necessarily make," said Joyce.

But Joyce, a structural engineer, admits he and the team did find issues with the schools' structures.

"Seeing it is really kind of an eye opening thing, seeing the failures," he explained. "I think a lot of it was just the importance of all the connections, you know, at the top of the wall, how that walls attach to the foundation."

Joyce's bottom line opinion: "I don't think it could have been prevented."

The American Society of Civil Engineers spokeswoman tells News 9 the report is not finished and statements by team members to the media are their own opinions. She said that the final report must be peer reviewed and is expected to be released this spring.