Why many homes in 'Tornado Alley' don't have a basement - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Why many homes in 'Tornado Alley' don't have a basement

Posted: Updated:
Soil with a high percentage of clay tends to dry out and crack, as pictured here (Photo: Activerain.com) Soil with a high percentage of clay tends to dry out and crack, as pictured here (Photo: Activerain.com)
  • More newsMore>>

  • Creeping landslide devouring part of Wyoming town

    Creeping landslide devouring part of Wyoming town

    Saturday, April 19 2014 5:52 PM EDT2014-04-19 21:52:46 GMT
    A sudden lurch in a creeping landslide in the northwest Wyoming resort town of Jackson split a house in two and forced workers to abandon efforts to stabilize the hillside.More >>
    No one can say precisely when the mountainside collapsing into this Wyoming resort town will give way. But it appears increasingly likely that when it does, it's going to take a piece of Jackson with it.More >>
  • Your Week in Viral Videos: Dyed eggs and dead technology

    Your Week in Viral Videos: Dyed eggs and dead technology

    Saturday, April 19 2014 5:41 PM EDT2014-04-19 21:41:28 GMT
    (RNN) – Easter is Sunday, and you’ve probably dyed a few eggs or know someone who has.Make sure you remember where you hid them, because you don’t want to come across them in July and have an unfortunate smell to deal with.Eggs will get their annual day in the sun Monday at the White House Easter Egg Roll, which is being protested by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.PETA doesn’t have a problem with rolling eggs, but it does have a problem with those eggs coming from chickens, so, i...More >>
    (RNN) – Easter is Sunday, and you’ve probably dyed a few eggs or know someone who has.Make sure you remember where you hid them, because you don’t want to come across them in July and have an unfortunate smell to deal with.Eggs will get their annual day in the sun Monday at the White House Easter Egg Roll, which is being protested by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.PETA doesn’t have a problem with rolling eggs, but it does have a problem with those eggs coming from chickens, so, i...More >>
  • Holy fire ceremony draws thousands in Jerusalem

    Holy fire ceremony draws thousands in Jerusalem

    Saturday, April 19 2014 5:38 PM EDT2014-04-19 21:38:21 GMT
    The dark hall inside Christianity's holiest shrine was illuminated with the flames from thousands of candles on Saturday as worshippers participated in the holy fire ceremony, a momentous spiritual event in...More >>
    The dark hall inside Christianity's holiest shrine was illuminated with the flames from thousands of candles on Saturday as worshippers participated in the holy fire ceremony, a momentous spiritual event in Orthodox...More >>
(FOX19) -

What? No basements in Moore, Oklahoma, located right in the heart of Tornado Alley! What are they thinking?

I have heard this many times since the town was struck by the deadly EF5 tornado on Monday.

The short answer is actually just one word: Clay.

Soil scientists talk about bentonite, illite, montmorillinite, chlorite, kaolinite and vermiculite. You may recognize the last one if you tinker with gardening.

To cut to the chase, the characteristic of clay important to the Moore, OK tornado story is that clay has an amazing capacity to expand and contract. In fact, some clays expand 30% in volume as they go from dry to saturated with water.

A basement situated in a clay soil will undergo tremendous changes in pressure. When the clay soil is very dry, it shrinks back and the basement loses support, threatening collapse.

It's common in regions with very clay-ish soils to see home owners with basements watering the clay during times of drought to keep it from shrinking away from the foundation.

When the clay soil is very wet and expands, basement foundations can be cracked, and in the worst case, loose structural integrity.

There are engineering solutions to this problem, but the cost is just too high for the average family home.

So for now, it is unusual for a home in Oklahoma's part of tornado alley to have a haven from the storm in the form of a basement.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.

  • Why many homes in 'Tornado Alley' don't have a basementMore>>

Powered by WorldNow