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Building Storm-Resistant Structures in the Aftermath of Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Car In House - Florida Property Insurance

Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida panhandle and caused havoc in several Southern states that were battered by powerful winds and inundated with flooding. Estimates vary wildly on the number of people left homeless, but local authorities reported 10,000 – 20,000 homes devastated by the storm.

As of October 29th, 48,665 households have requested aid through FEMA; $17.5 billion has been paid out to homeowners for repairs or replacement of their wind-battered homes.  For those who must seek temporary alternate housing, so many buildings were damaged that there are very few apartments left to rent.

A few houses in the neighborhoods of Florida’s Panhandle are still standing following the ravages of Hurricane Michael. Most of these homes were able to withstand the relentless winds and punishing rain due to low-cost reinforcements, such as:

  • Strategically placed nails
  • Small metal connectors
  • Shutters on all openings that create a strong seal
  • Puncture-resistant walls
  • Metal roofs
  • Hurricane ties
  • Thicker lumber
  • Windstorm plywood
  • Hurricane-rated glass
  • Stronger nails than are typically used in housing construction today.

Amazingly, five of the houses that were standing after the storm blew through were built by Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that permits future homeowners to invest sweat equity into the building of their affordable home. Habitat for Humanity has invested into storm-resistant structures in hurricane-prone areas since Hurricane Andrew struck the Bahamas, Florida and Louisiana in August 1992.

Modeling after the success of the Habitat for Humanity homes that survived Hurricane Michael, homeowners need to insist that rebuilding efforts are completed in a manner that meet or exceed a voluntary set of building standards that go above and beyond current building codes. These “gold” standard codes will go a long way toward protecting their homes from future storms. The building standards are referred to as “Fortified Gold” and are endorsed by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a nonprofit organization that works closely with roofers, builders and organizations to build homes that protect against the wind, have strong roofs and stronger windows and doors. They maintain that it is essential that the edge of the roof be reinforced so that it will withstand the wind and the roof won’t blow off.

Special nails and metal attachments between the roof and walls will go a long way toward building a resilient structure. These types of reinforcements do not cost tens of thousands of dollars; the cost of fortification is affordable for most homeowners. One nonprofit organization that launched after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, places the cost of bringing a house up to these standards at $9,200.

However, it is vitally important that homeowners ask their contractors the right questions and insist that their house is hardened, the roof, windows and doors are fortified, and the house is tied together tightly from top to bottom. This type of fortification will also protect buildings from flying objects, which can break windows and doors as well as create upward pressure on the roof. There are many scam artists that follow major storms and will take advantage of storm victims, which is why it is important for consumers to be well-informed.

When built to IBHS standards, a home will be safer, eligible for insurance premium discounts as well as make it less likely that inhabitants will be displaced following a major storm. Some homeowners calculate they will break even for the additional investment required to meet the “gold” standard after six years due to lower insurance rates and utility bills.

Contact the experts at Lanier Upshaw for more information on how you can protect yourself, your family and your property from future hurricanes and other natural disasters.