I’ve posted before on my frustration about above-ground power lines and how dangerous they are in a storm. And in certain footage of the tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, two days ago, the first thing you see when the tornado touches down is a power line being snapped.
But enough about above-ground power lines. On to the next “duh” issue. Every time there’s a tornado in this country, and that’s several times a year in Tornado Alley, TV reporters show us how houses have just disappeared, and how houses were blown apart “like matchsticks.” Well, that’s because that’s pretty much what they are.
American houses are mostly made of sticks and sheet rock. 2″ x 4″ sticks, with some 2″ x 6″ ones here and there.
And for you Dutchies, sheetrock isn’t any kind of rock. It’s gipsplaat. Half an inch thick at most. So yeah, when a tornado hits, your house is no shelter to speak of.
They may look like they’re made of brick, or, in our case, stone, but that’s just veneer. Those walls are not load-bearing. They have no structural value. They’re just for looks. Nothing more than Disney World facades.
Not only is your house about as much of a shelter in a tornado as a cardboard box would be, but all those sticks go flying around at 100 miles an hour, and act as deadly projectiles. They will go right through the sticks-and-sheet-rock walls of houses that are still standing, and can spear you in your bed.
So, in the case of Joplin, about 117 people (so far) died, and their neighborhoods are wiped out. When is America going to catch on? In the Caribbean, where they have hurricanes all the time, the houses are made of concrete. Heck, in Holland, where nothing ever happens, the houses are made of concrete. But in America everything is about the bottom line and therefore about using as few materials as possible. Hence the sticks and sheet rock.
The government could force builders to build houses that the big bad wolf can’t blow down, or can’t blow down entirely at least. Prefab concrete panels can’t really be that much more expensive. And it would sure save billions on insurance payouts and government aid, not to mention lives and memories lost, which are priceless. Because that’s what the government is for: protecting people, putting regulations in place that ensure safety over greed where “the market” doesn’t do that by itself. But again, that would be seen as government interference, so it’s never going to happen. And people’s lives will continue to be destroyed every tornado season and every hurricane season.
It’s a tragedy, but to me the biggest tragedy is that it’s preventable. Sure, mother Nature is powerful, but a country that can send people to the moon can build houses that don’t get blown completely to smithereens. That wheel was invented quite a while ago already.