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Wind & Hurricane Impact Research Laboratory(WHIRL)

New Smyrna Beach Tornado

Survey Areas

November 2, 1997 12:45 am

Approximate touch-down locations of the tornado
(from The Daily Journal, New Smyrna Beach)

The tornado hit in the early morning hours. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, but property damage was extensive. As the following pictures illustrate, the multistory engineered structures suffered little or no structural damage, but extensive and devastating content damage due to failure of the exterior building envelope. Single-unit homes suffered both extensive structural and contents damage. In many cases, roofs were detached from the main structure and/or unreinforced masonry walls collapsed. The damage spanned lower- to upper-income neighborhoods, and some expensive homes performed very poorly.

#1 Canal St.

Canal St. Photos
First touch-down area. The tornado was F0-F1 at this time. The neighborhood is a mixture of low income housing and housing projects with poor quality of construction. This house had part of its roof blown off.
Back view of the previous house. The roof is now some 40 yards from the house. Notice that the trusses themselves resisted the impact, but the roof failed due to lack of proper connection to the bearing walls.
Same house, front view. An unreinforced masonry wall was toppled by the wind. By chance, the owners where out with their car.

#2 Quay Assisi

  At the entrance of Quai Assisi, the tall palm trees were broken like matches. Evidence of an F3 tornado was abundant there.

Timber house completely destroyed on the Canal. The red tag means that the house is condemned.


Back view of the same house. A whole section of the house is gone.


The neighboring house, also a timber structure, was destroyed.


Side view of the same house. The siding and roof covering were torn from the structure, but the rafters resisted the impact of the wind.


Close-up view of the same structure showing a typical panel failure at the edge of the roof.


The wind was strong enough to tear apart this 2 ft. diameter mooring post on the canal.

#3 Diamond Head Condominiums

Diamond Head Condominium. The tornado was probably an F3 at this point. This is a set of two twin, nine-stories structures. The effect of the wind might have been amplified by the wind-structure interaction, specially in the "funnel" between the two towers. There was no major structural damage to this reinforced concrete buildings. But the envelope and content suffered extensive damage.

Close-up view of the lower stories. The wind twisted the iron balcony railing.


The glass envelope of the building at the first floor was completely destroyed with subsequent loss of content.


Interior view of the first-floor lobby of one of the towers. The damage to envelope (glass), content and utilities is total.


Another view of the lobby. Notice the complete destruction of the content, although there was no main structural damage.


View of an apartment in the upper floors. Apparently, this apartment did have its shutters down. But the apartment next door did not. The wind broke the interior partition and blew away the shutters from the inside.


View of the torn partition between two apartments. Although one of the apartments had its shutters down, the failure of the partition brought havoc inside the unit (see previous picture).


Close-up view of internal partition damage. Obviously, the aluminum stud walls were incapable of resisting the internal pressures. Notice in the back how the content of the bookshelf remained undisturbed.


Another internal partition torn apart.


One of the upper-floor apartment typically devastated.


Another apartment left untouched. The owner had its hurricane shutters down, and the envelope resisted the impact of the wind.

#4 Beachside

House on the beach side. The tornado was also an F3 in that area, and it devastated several blocks. As opposed to the engineered twin condo towers, many of the single-unit homes suffered partial or total structural damage. In this case, the weak point was the "soft story" at the ground level.

Total destruction of this unreinforced masonry home.

The roof of the garage was blown off. Again, observe that the roof itself remained fairly intact, but the connection to the walls was insufficient. The unreinforced masonry walls were toppled.

Another house partially destroyed. Ironically, the main door of the house remained locked and standing without damage.

Another unreinforced masonry unit completely destroyed.

In this case, the roof caved in.

Another example of a "soft story" failure. Ironically, the roof performed very well in this case.

A house on the beach front. Another case of roof and unreinforced masonry failure.

This house on the beach front lost its roof. The first-story unreinforced masonry wall also suffered extensive damage.

Piece of plywood driven into a palm tree. It is a clear reminder of the wind force and the lethal danger caused by the debris.

Piece of glass encrusted in a palm tree.

Melbourne NWS Official Summary of Tornado Event

Additional photos from the survey of the State of Florida Division of Emergency Management Survey 

All photos by Jean-Paul Pinelli, Director, WHIRL

Special thanks to the State of Florida Division of Emergency Management, and to theVolusia County Office of Emergency Management, who facilitated this survey.