Volume 39, Issue 9, September  2004

Issue@Hand

Sorry Charley

In a show of natural force only seen a few times before in this country, Hurricane Charley rammed itself through Florida’s mid-section late last month, moving west to east in a pulverizing frenzy. As this article is written we are awaiting the arrival of Frances. 

The Insurance Information Institute estimates that Charley’s impact will reach approximately $20 billion in claims before the counting stops. This will make it the second most costly hurricane in modern history, close behind Hurricane Andrew, which had losses of $26 billion.

While the amount is staggering—especially when you consider the relative small size of the area effected—there is some good news amid the rubble.

The reports from Charley are lacking one key element found in most previous hurricane stories; there has been little to no mention of damage done by broken glass. Having spent the last few weeks pouring over hundreds of news reports, I can say that “bad rap” glass traditionally gets in disasters such as this are simply not present. True, there was glass breakage, but its effects were not nearly as catastrophic as in the past. So the good news is that all the efforts toward stricter building codes and better buildings worked. Glass is not the enemy anymore. 
“Charley was also seen as the first serious test of stronger building codes and methods put into place following Andrew,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “The town of Homestead and sections of Southern Miami-Dade county are still recovering from Andrew.”

Comparing Andrew to Charley, there are other significant differences in the type of damage and the methods used to repair it. Thirty-three percent of the insured losses attributed to Andrew were business damage; for Charley that number is only 20 percent, with 80 percent of its damage to homowners’ claims. Sixty-seven percent of Charley’s damage was to homes.

This time, roofing materials seem to have been a major cause of airborne debris. Concern will also be focused on older homes (mobile or otherwise), built before the code changes that could not withstand the hurricane forces. It seems that many of the homes razed by Charley would not have met today’s standards. 

I would expect the codes to concentrate on roof debris and grandfathered structures next. 

As I write this, Florida is yet again bracing—this time for Frances. She will be a whole other story. 


USG

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