Is a warehouse in Sioux Falls required to withstand an F3 tornado?

KELOLAND.com Original

Emergency vehicles stage outside an Amazon fulfillment center after it was heavily damaged when a strong thunderstorm moved through the area Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in Edwardsville, Illinois. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Amazon warehouse destroyed in a Dec. 10 tornado in Edwardsville, Illinois, appears to be smaller than the warehouse under construction in Foundation Park in Sioux Falls.

Both Edwardsville and Sioux Falls follow the International Building Code. According to the city of Edwardsville website, the city follows the International Building Code 2006 Edition.

According to the Sioux Falls city website, the city follows the 2018 IBC.

But would both buildings be constructed to withstand the reported F3 tornado that struck Edwardsville?

Butch Warrington, the chief building official for the city of Sioux Falls, said in a Dec. 13 interview, “You can’t design for everything, let’s put it that way.”

Based on prior media reports and information from the city and the Madison County Economic Development, the Illinois warehouse is at least a 700,000 square foot structure. Amazon has a 717,000 square foot warehouse in the Gateway Commerce Center. It also has a 760,000 square-foot warehouse in the Lakeview Commerce Park. Both were built in 2016.

Six people, as of Dec. 13, died in the Edwardsville warehouse.

Warrington said in a Dec. 3 KELOLAND News story the Amazon fulfillment center being built in the city is a five-story structure is 2.9 million square feet.

The first floor of the facility in Sioux Falls is 635,000 square feet with a mezzanine of about 294,000 square feet. The second through fifth floors are about 492,000 square feet each.

Sioux Falls requires all buildings to withstand a wind of 115 miles per hour.

“115 will take a lot. It’s going to take a tornado to do any damage,” Warrington said.

During a news conference on the Dec. 10 tornado, officials said the damaged facility in Edwardsville had 40-foot walls of 11-inch concrete that collapsed inward. The facility’s roof collapsed downward. About 150 yards of the facility were damaged, officials said.

The National Weather Service said an E3 tornado has wind speeds of 136 and 165 mph.

The IBC includes wind-resistant provisions for structures.

Wind speeds and resistance are calculated on various factors.

“Wind shall be assumed to come from any horizontal direction and wind pressures shall be assumed to act normal to the surface considered,” the IBC said.

The IBC also refers to Chapter 6 of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)7 and Section 1609 or ASCE 7.

Warrington said there is a national map of wind speeds and gradients. The wind speed on the map in Chamberlain is 114 mph, he said. “In Chicago, it’s close to 107 mph,” he said.

While houses, buildings, warehouses and factors are designed for 115 mph, the city has required schools to have a section that will withstand 200 mph wind since 2018, Warrington said. The new Thomas Jefferson High School and Ben Reifel Middle School would have those sections. The new school for the Harrisburg School District in Sioux Falls, for example, would also meet that section requirement.

The city also has a higher wind speed requirement of 120 for buildings of assembly such as a large event center, Warrington said.

Storm shelters are only required for emergency services such as the city’s 911 command center, he said.

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