Volume 35, Number 4, April 2000



                            latest news developments

Industry Says Precautions Could Have Minimized Tornado Damage

Several weeks following the fierce tornado that ripped through Fort Worth, Texas, the city is still involved in the rebuild efforts. With many residential homes covered in plastic and plywood, and commercial buildings boarded up due to broken windows, area glass shops say they are swamped with work and expect this to continue for weeks and months to come. But, they also say much of the damage could have been minimized if laminated glass and/or security film was applied to many of the building’s windows.

On the commercial side, the Tandy Corporation reported that its corporate headquarters located in downtown Fort Worth sustained only minimal damage. But, this minimal damage, consisting primarily of glass breakage, equaled the tune of $2 million dollars.

The 35-story Bank One Building, fared much worse; in fact it was one of the hardest hit by the tornado. According to building officials, 3,200 of the building’s 3,540 panes of glass were either broken or damaged and all will have to be replaced. UPR Plaza was also badly hit and replacing broken windows in the 40-story building is expected to take months as well.

Gary Fagan, owner of Advanced Glass Systems, said he went to work immediately following the tornado. In fact, Fagan, and many of his employees, were out until 3:00 in the morning, following the tornado, boarding up windows that sustained damage. He said Home Depot assisted with the board up effort as well. The company came by and dropped off plywood, nails and other supplies by the truckful.

In addition to the tornado striking the downtown area, another storm struck 14-15 miles southeast of the city. “That area [South Arlington] hasn’t even been touched [damage hasn’t been repaired],” said Fagan.

Fagan reports that most customers are being very understanding and are waiting patiently for repairs to be made. Additionally, Fagan says of the buildings two stories or less located west of downtown, only about 50 percent are repaired.

Residential and commercial buildings weren’t the only structures that suffered damage. Fagan and his crew also worked 12-14 hour days for the ten days following the storm, replacing damaged automobile glass.

Scott Norville, director of the glass research and testing lab at Texas Tech University spent a few days assessing the damage wreaked by this tornado. According to Norville, much of the glass breakage was a result of the impact of roofing materials and other debris. Norville compared the recent tornado to Hurricane Alicia which hit Houston in the early 90s. “With Hurricane Alicia, the glass was out due to roof gravel; with Fort Worth, the debris causing glass damage was more than just roof gravel,” he said.

Fagan agrees with Norville. “It wasn’t high winds that caused the damage, it was the debris,” he said. Jerry Wright, president of AAA Glass & Mirror, concurs with that assessment as well. “The damage was a result of all types of debris,” said Wright.

So, could anything have been done to prevent this horrific damage? “With respect to design and wind-load requirements, the glass was properly designed and properly installed,” said Norville. “The glass was properly designed for Fort Worth windloads, but, it was not properly designed for tornadoes,” he added.

Although, the buildings may have been designed in accordance with building codes at the time they were designed, both Wright and Fagan believe there was something that could have been done to prevent some of the damage.

“A lot of glass breakage could have been averted if laminated glass and/or security film was applied,” said Wright. “In some buildings where plate glass was, we’re going in and putting laminated glass,” said Fagan.

With all the work that still has to be done in Forth Worth and the surrounding area, the industry is once again lamenting the lack of qualified employees. “We’re busy because we’re held hostage by employees,” said Fagan, who has 21 employees. “There’s nowhere to get them. That translates into a lower quality of service for the customer.”

Wright and his employees have been busy helping in the rebuild efforts as well and says the big problem is finding enough workers to assist with the larger jobs.

So, with all the damage that Forth Worth and the surrounding area suffered, how long will it take for all of the damage to be repaired? “It will take about one year for downtown to be back to normal,” said Fagan. “It will probably take us another 4 to 6 weeks to catch up.”

Fagan said commercial/new construction jobs have to take a backseat and reports that some commercial contractors are not being cooperative. “I understand that they have deadlines,” said Fagan. “But, we’re not chasing business. We’re just trying to get it so people can live.”

Lawsuits Alleging
Price Fixing Continue

Two new lawsuits have been filed alleging that various glass manufacturers conspired to fix flat glass prices. One of the latest suits has been filed by Alcoa Inc., parent company of Kawneer Co. The suit was filed in late January in Pennsylvania Federal Court. According to an Alcoa representative, the company opted out of a class action lawsuit and instead decided to file its own action against the glass manufacturers.

Companies named in the suit include AFG Industries, Guardian Industries, Pilkington LOF and PPG Industries. Additionally, Pittsburgh’s Tribune-Review reported that Asahi Glass Co. of Tokyo and Britain’s Pilkington plc have been named as co-conspirators. In the complaint, Alcoa alleges that the companies conspired to “fix, raise, maintain or stabilize prices” from 1986 through 1995.

According to the Tribune-Review, Alcoa suggested that many of the alleged discussions on price fixing occurred at industry meetings such as Glass Week and glasstec.

The second complaint was filed in the United States District Court of Kansas by three Kansas City glass companies, Havens Protected, Able Auto Glass and Sol’s Glass Company, and all others similarly situated. The complaint was filed against AFG Industries, Ford Motor Co., Guardian Industries, Pilkington plc and PPG Industries. The plaintiffs also allege that various other persons, partnerships, firms, corporations and associations not named as defendants were involved in the price fixing.

The complaint seeks actual and treble damages, injunctive relief and costs of litigation, including attorney’s fees relating to the plaintiffs’ purchases of flat glass products for the four-and one-half year period, August 1, 1991 through December 31, 1995. Although the complaint does not specify any fixed amount of damages and costs, its allegations make clear that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 (exclusive of costs and interest).

According to the complaint, the action is brought as a class action on behalf of all sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations and other business entities in the state of Kansas who indirectly purchased flat glass products in Kansas from any of the defendants or their co-conspirators during the period from August 1, 1991 through December 31, 1995.


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