Exception Failure of shelter in newly built Turner Agri-Center in Arcadia still is under review. (Photo courtesy of Forest Meadows)

Investigators who studied Florida storm shelters battered by last year’s hurricanes are reporting mostly good news. But they still have no answers about the most spectacular shelter damage of all, the failure of a newly built shelter in Arcadia from Hurricane Charley’s heavy winds.

Marc Levitan, a civil engineering professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, says results of an inquest into the failure of an end wall at Arcadia’s Turner Agri-Center last Aug. 16, "are pending" (ENR 8/30-9/6/04 p. 15). Matt Holloman, a spokesman for Desoto County, which owns the building, says the county is waiting for its insurer to conclude an investigation, present its findings and propose a settlement.

Levitan, speaking at a Feb. 11 conference in Tampa sponsored by the International Code Conference, is chair of a committee formed by Falls Church, Va.-based ICC and the National Storm Shelter Association, Lubbock, Texas, to study shelter performance in hurricanes Charley and Ivan. He says damage observed at 20 shelters in schools was "typically" not structural. In addition, he says investigators "couldn’t find a scratch" on buildings with "Enhanced Hurricane Protection Area" designations. Under Florida’s building code and the state’s Emergency Shelter Plan, new public education facilities must include an EHPA structure that meets Florida’s Model Hurricane Evacuation Shelter Selection Guidelines.

Levitan said the end wall collapse at the Turner Center "prompted us to get out in the field" as the "potential for a huge loss of life" existed at the relatively new structure. He says it will be important to see the results of why the collapse occurred, whether the structure met EHPA criteria or whether there was a design or construction flaw.

"Charley provided an excellent learning environment, post-Hurricane Andrew," says John Ingargiola, a civil engineer with the building sciences and technology section of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s risk assessment branch in...