Storm Resistance

port_charlotteIn mid-August 2004, Hurricane Charley hit the Gulf Coast of Florida. The Category 4 hurricane produced winds up to 144 miles per hour. This Port Charlotte residence was under construction at the time, and even though it saw significant wind as evidenced by the missing and damaged clay tile shingles, it experienced no other damage.

Storm surge and high winds are two of the more devastating actions created by hurricanes, and Hurricane Katrina provided plenty of both. With sustained winds and a slow trajectory, it whipped at the coastal areas and sent walls of water inland.

If buildings were strong enough to withstand the surging waters, structures were simply flooded. Unfortunately, many buildings were completely washed away. Similarly, if high winds only damaged windows and roofs, that was far better than having roofs ripped off and walls topple down. But that’s what happened to many of the lighter framed structures and unreinforced masonry structures.

The cement-based wall systems such as masonry, precast concrete, and insulated concrete forms (ICFs) that contained proper reinforcement took a lot of abuse, perhaps maintaining only the building’s shell, but they remained standing. Many became inundated with flood waters or saturated by heavy rains. Since masonry and concrete do not provide a food source for mold, however, the excess moisture didn’t necessitate destruction of the walls. Instead, buildings made from those materials only required cleaning and drying out before re-installing windows and interior walls and finishes.

These are several of the messages that need to be brought to building officials, architects, builders, homeowners, and others regarding the rebuilding efforts.