Man-made hurricane hits S.C. coast Monday

December 13, 2001

CLEMSON -- Clemson University engineers destroyed more houses on the U.S. mainland than hurricanes did this summer - and Tim Reinhold wouldn't want it any other way.

Reinhold, a nationally recognized structural engineer, lead a team of students in "testing to destruction" eight houses in coastal South Carolina. Using everything from a 35-foot crane to vacuum chambers, they pulled and poked roofs, walls and rafters in the interest of finding out what hurricane retrofits work best in real-life simulations.

The final site this testing season will be a split-level house. Its roof will be wracked apart by two cranes to test the effectiveness of hurricane straps against the combined forces of uplift and sheer. Testing takes place Monday, Dec. 17, outside of Conway.

Test homes were damaged by floods in Hurricane Floyd and already slated for destruction. Approximately 15 houses have been used in the Clemson trials. All are in Horry County, a coastal county dominated by the tourist destination Myrtle Beach.

"This takes the lab into absolute real-world conditions, where we can scientifically monitor exactly what happens and evaluate how well the retrofits work," said Reinhold, an associate civil engineering professor.

Engineering standbys, such as vacuum chambers and pressure transducers, were used during testing, but researchers also expanded the scientific arsenal to include air bags exploding against windows and airborne debris (ie, 2x4's) pounding walls, shutters and saferooms at 100-mph speeds. The side-by-side comparisons of retrofitted and non-retrofitted areas will allow researchers to determine what works best and installs most easily in the field, said Reinhold.

The project is a partnership between Clemson, Horry County, the South Carolina Department of Insurance, the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), the Horry-Georgetown Homebuilders Association and local building officials from Horry County, Conway and Myrtle Beach. Also involved are the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium and N.C. Sea Grant.

Retrofits under study include the effectiveness of adding screws or ring-shank nails to supplement the existing nailing pattern on new roofs; using adhesives applied from the attic space on existing roofs; bracing gable roof ends to prevent the failure; installing hurricane straps or retrofit brackets to strengthen the roof-wall connection; using structural ties to improve the anchorage of porch roofs or substantial overhangs.

Results of the tests will be made available in the spring.

Clemson has one of the nation's top research facilities to study the effects of high winds on low-rise structures such as homes and schools.

The nearly $84,000 project will provide more accurate estimates of retrofit costs and the potential benefits of such measures, said Jeff Sciaudone, associate director of engineering for the Institute for Business & Home Safety. The IBHS is an initiative of the insurance industry to reduce deaths, injuries, property damage, economic losses and human suffering caused by natural disasters.

For Horry County, hurt by Hurricane Floyd in September 1999, the project is an opportunity to take back a little of what Floyd took away.

The research puts to use some of the 29 uninhabitable homes bought as part of FEMA's repetitive flood buyout program in Horry County.

Clemson University

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