Hurricane Ian slammed into west Florida on Wednesday afternoon near Cayo Costa as one of the strongest storms to hit the U.S. In its wake, it left a trail of destruction, trapping people in homes, knocking out power to millions and flooding parts of the state.
Ian barreled across the Florida peninsula overnight Wednesday and will emerge over the Atlantic on Thursday. The storm is then expected to re-intensify as it approaches the coast of South Carolina on Friday.
“It’s going to be months before they can even get functioning to anything close to normal,” Tony Padula, president of A+ Auto Glass in Ft. Myers, says of the impacted area. “It won’t even be normal. It’ll probably be a year before they completely recover from this.”
Though it’s still too early to understand the full extent of the damage, Ian was a litmus test for Florida’s building codes, which are some of the most rigorous in the country. Following Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Florida adopted a universal code, the Florida Building Code (FBC), which mandated that new construction be able to withstand hurricane-force winds and feature shutters or impact-resistant glass in all openings.
Structures built under the FBC have proven to hold up against more recent storms, such as Hurricane Irma in 2017. None of these storms, however, compared to the strength of Ian, which brought 150 mph sustained winds and caused devasting storm surges that peaked as high as 12 feet in some areas of the state, say government officials.
According to Enki Research, which models natural disasters, the total economic damage from Ian is expected to be $56 billion. If the codes are seen as a success in preventing further damages and costly repairs, other states might follow Florida’s model. If the economic and building damage estimates exceed expectations, questions will begin to rise as to whether Florida’s codes are strict enough.
Preparing for Hurricanes
When it comes to living in Florida, preparation is key, says Raymond E. Crawford, president of Crawford-Tracey Corp., a Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based glazing contractor.
“As a Floridian born and raised, I am more than aware of the impact and risks that hurricanes and special weather events pose to people and property,” says Crawford. “As a business owner, it gets even more involved.”
Crawford says that come June, he starts monitoring sites and keeping an eye on the tropics. When storm systems appear, Crawford sends out emails if a system begins to grow and becomes a threat.
“I have been sending these notifications and information out for years so that our team can stay on top of the weather and necessary and timely preparations of our facilities and projects can be done,” says Crawford. “In the past few years, different people have been asking me to add them to the communication list.”
Though it’s still too early to understand fully the extent of the damage, recovery efforts are underway. PGT Innovations Inc. (PGTI), which has locations throughout Florida, has a hurricane relief team assessing the damage and checking in on team members, says PGTI marketing specialist McKenna Tanski.
“PGTI’s hurricane relief team is already out on the roads assessing for damage, checking in with their local team members and organizing relief efforts,” says Jeff Jackson, president and CEO of PGTI. “They are planning to offer relief supplies and cleanup assistance starting tomorrow morning to first their team members, their dealer partners and then the community.”
PGTI’s Family Fund program will also offer loans to team members to help pay for large repairs. Additionally, PGTI is offering volunteer time off hours for PGTI team members who volunteer to provide assistance to others.
Jackson adds that all of the production facilities withstood the storm without any notable damage and will begin production sometime during the weekend.
As an engineer now retired from the Port authority of NY and NJ, I am familiar with the NYC Building Code which I believe is touted as the most stringent in the country. Nevertheless, Florida is subject to weather that NY may not be and therefore should use different codes for example. NJ, for instance, required metal clips attaching roofing to wall studs to overcome destructive wind conditions. Not required was the same clips for wall studs to foundations. My point is what good is the former with out the latter?