WASHINGTON, D.C. – We are deeply saddened by the tragic tornado storms that ravaged six states across the Midwest and Southeastern portions of the U.S. Friday evening, resulting in loss of life in five of those six states. Even though warnings were issued throughout the region, storms of this magnitude can be difficult to prepare for. Nevertheless, as civil engineers, our mission is to continually advance the design and construction of safe, reliable, and resilient building structures and infrastructure systems to mitigate the damage caused by storms.

Fortunately, tornadoes of this magnitude are extremely rare. The National Weather Service rates tornado severity according to the six levels of observed damage in the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale), ranging from EF0 to EF5. The EF5 tornado, which is the most destructive classification of tornadoes, that traveled 220 miles through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky is the first storm of this magnitude in the U.S. since 2013, when an EF5 devastated communities in Moore, OK. While rare, it is imperative that communities rebuild using the latest codes and standards both to meet current and future needs and to become more resilient for the future. 

ASCE 7 — a nationally-adopted, consensus-based engineering standard that is the primary reference of structural design requirements in all U.S. building codes — was recently updated to include a new chapter for tornado loads in the 2022 edition. The new tornado provisions in ASCE 7-22 were a result of a decade-long effort in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology following the 2011 Joplin, MO Tornado. ASCE 7-22 provides updated design requirements for a variety of structures, including many of the types impacted by Friday’s storms.

In an effort to assist, the Structural Engineering Institute of ASCE is currently offering free access to a report issued after the Joplin, MO tornado in 2011 that killed more than 150 people. Joplin, Missouri, Tornado of May 22, 2011: Structural Damage Survey and Case for Tornado-Resilient Building Codes presents the observations, findings, and recommendations of an engineering reconnaissance team that surveyed residential structures and schools in the tornado path shortly after the event. The EF 5 tornado cut a seven-mile swath through Joplin, Missouri; it destroyed more than 5,000 buildings and killed more than 150 people.

We will continue to keep those who have been affected in our hearts and thoughts, and we share our heartfelt sympathies.

About the American Society of Civil Engineers

Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. ASCE works to raise awareness of the need to maintain and modernize the nation's infrastructure using sustainable and resilient practices, advocates for increasing and optimizing investment in infrastructure, and improve engineering knowledge and competency. For more information, visit www.asce.org or www.infrastructurereportcard.org and follow us on Twitter, @ASCETweets and @ASCEGovRel.