Friday, February 22, 2008

A study in tornado damage at Wynnewood, TN

Since I live in a log home, I've often wondered how it would fare in a direct hit by a tornado.

Here is a good study of what might happen. Wynnewood is the same style log house as mine - squared cedar logs with dovetail joints from the same era. The caretakers were in the house during the storm and survived without injury.

This was a direct hit that occured during the Feb 5, '08 tornado outbreak. Notice the mature cedar tree that was ripped away. As you can see, the roof and half of the second story were taken, but all of the first story walls remained intact. (the lower pic shows more of the house. Use the breezeway and stairs as a reference for comparison. The second story from the breezeway and left is gone)

This great loss of a piece of TN history I hope will eventually be restored. Wynnewood is in Castalian Springs and is on the register of National Historic Landmarks. It was built in 1828 and is the largest log structure in Tennessee. It stretches 142 feet in length. It was a stage coach inn on the Nashville-Knoxville Road. It is owned by the state of Tennessee and operated as a museum.

I think the old log house did ok considering neighboring houses were flattened and 8 people were killed in Castalian Springs. It kept the inhabitants safe and wasn't flattened. I assume this old cabin is like mine with concrete chinking. Not as tight as the modern synthetic permachink, but probably more structurally stout. That is what may have saved some of those walls. Of course my log house is only 3500' sq ft - not nearly as large as Wynnewood.

This tornado was the single deadliest tornado to strike Middle Tennessee in over 75 years. The National Weather Service confirmed that the 22 deaths were caused by this tornado, which was rated as an EF3. The tornado path was 51 miles long and up to 0.75 mile wide. It passed about 40 miles north of where I live.

Story here.


Old Man said...

tornado's are fasinating, to see the destruction first hand breath taking.

how about TN, part of a new tornado alley?

Anonymous said...


If it had "hurricane clips" (Simpson calls them something much more technical) joining the bottoms of the rafters to the top plate the roof might well have stayed on. Until the roof fails a lot of houses will withstand considerable wind.

Of course, dating from 1828 the building in question (and your home) probably have a heavy ridge beam and some huge rafter 4-8 feet on center with purlins between them. The roof sheathing would run from eave to ridge if that is the case.

If you can get at the roof framing from the attic, it might be worth tying it to the top plate/log with some engineered plate fasteners. If you don't already know all of this stuff, google Simpson StrongTies.


billwynne said...

Thanks for this post, although the picture brought tears. Wynnewood was my family's home, where I spent many childhood summers. Up until now, I had not seen a picture of the damage.
Hard for me to look it.

Anonymous said...

As a person who worked at the Wynnewood site for the two days after the tornado, I can add this to the discussion: the tornado that did this touched down on a new home about half a mile southwest of Wynnewood and did not leave the ground for 41 MILES. In Tennessee this is unheard of, as they usually skip around on the high ground. Wynnewood took a direct hit by the funnel cloud. We observed rotational patterns engraved into the soil by debris. It is the only building in the tornado's direct path (not general storm cell) to have any part standing. Frame built houses looked like stacks of pick-up sticks and mobile homes were simply gone, only to be identified by foundations. The wide profile of Wynnewood took the brunt of the force, causing the roof, chimney and half of the top floor to come off and land in the front yard. The entire structure, although mostly standing, was pushed a full 13 inches off the foundation! I've been a lot of places and seen all kinds of things, but seeing this grand building still standing after the hit it took was one for my personal record book.

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