Engineers warn of permanent damage to homes after explosion

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The power of the blast at Watson Grinding and Manufacturing is undeniable. With debris scattered for a half mile and windows, doors and drywall blown off homes near the facility, structural engineers warn there is the possibility for permanent damage to homes that in some cases cannot be repaired.

The major concern according to two structural engineers is 'permanent racking.' That occurs when the force of the blast is enough to knock a building off plumb or square. Homes are designed to have square corners. If a blast knocks it out, it is difficult to repair.

The first warning sign is doors or windows that no longer close easily or stick, assuming they worked just fine yesterday. One engineer, who hasn't been to the site of the blast, suggests that if you live close to the blast and notice doors and windows that won't close correctly, it is likely smart to stay out of the home until an engineer can examine it.

Other potential signs of trouble are exterior walls that have been compromised or roofs missing sheathing.

Hairline cracks in drywall and even broken windows may not be signs of permanent damage. One engineer explained that while wooden walls can flex some, drywall is more brittle and can crack or fall easier.

In many cases, homeowners insurance will cover the damage.

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