A Gulf Shores, Alabama, residential deck collapsed under the weight of students on spring break this month, reports the Mobile Press-Register ("Six spring-breakers hospitalized after deck collapses at beach house in Gulf Shores," by Marc D. Anderson).

The structural failure made a noise like a "crack of thunder," physician Clay Elkins told Mobile TV station FOX10 ("City addresses Gulf Shores deck collapse"). Elkins, who was vacationing two doors down from the house, questioned the idea that the deck was overloaded or that students were overly active. "They weren't disruptive or anything like that," Elkins told the station. "Just, the thing gave way and I'm reading 40 or 50 people on the deck, I never saw that many."

Gulf Shores official Grant Brown said, "Unfortunately you can have the best building codes in the world and if you have an over-capacity situation at some point there is a maximum capacity of that structure." However, the deck was likely built before building codes began to incorporate detailed requirements for a positive connection between the deck structure and the building.

For more information on appropriate structural supports for attached decks, see "Coastal Resources: Safe and Durable Coastal Decks," by Frank Woeste (first posted at Coastal Contractor in March, 2008).