Things we learned from Hurricane Irma - Divco Custom Homes

Things we learned from Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma hit Marco Island with a strength rating of 3+ last September. At the time the storm hit, we had 10 homes under construction in Marco, one a couple of blocks from the beach in Naples, and a dozen in Miromar Lakes. For those of you who didn’t follow the storm, it was massive in its size and strength. It stayed as a category 5 storm through the islands and up until it crossed the keys. Looking back there were numerous lessons and concerns that residents in hurricane zones should consider.

First, as the storm was heading towards Florida, there were a lot of questions of damage upon impact. While the storm did weaken to a mid-grade category 3 storm by the time it hit Marco Island, houses constructed under reasonably current building codes took mostly minor structural damage. There was heavy damage to lighter aluminum structures, landscaping, roofing, and screen enclosures, but for the most part limited structural damage unless from falling trees. So, the attention paid to upgrading building codes seems to have prevented significant damage. We had four homes ready to close at the time the storm hit and all but one closed within two weeks of the storm hitting. The national media did a very poor job of forecasting expected damages from the storm and the expected storm surge. Most of the media were reporting a storm surge in the double digit range. To them this meant that there could be 10+ of water above the ground. However, a storm surge is measured from mean sea level which means there is three to four feet of surge height required before the water gets above most seawalls. While there was flooding in the low lying and older sections of Collier and Lee County, homes built to current FEMA regulations in flood zones didn’t flood. In Marco, the garages are usually 30” below the house, and we didn’t have flooding in any of them. What went wrong in the storm? Roofing was damaged throughout Collier and Lee Counties. Marco Island and parts of Naples had a sizeable number of homes that require reroofing. In many cases this was do to the wind action loosing the screws which hold the tiles to the house. In many cases the roof would look as if it had minor damage, but the tiles could be raised more than an acceptable level off of the roof. Landscaping and aluminum structures also sustained major damage. Most communities in Collier and Lee Counties are still dealing with repairs to landscaping and other items within the community.

Items to consider:

While structural damage to new housing was limited, roofing damage was not. There are more expensive roofing installation techniques which offer greater protection from storm damage. In coastal areas homeowners should consider them. Flood insurance is required by lenders in areas deemed by FEMA to be in a flood plane. However, the basic policies which are subsidized and have a low cost are limited to $250,000. This will not cover flooding damages for Coastal Collier and Lee County houses. In addition, pay attention to your storm deductible. This is usually different your main deductible. Many policies will go up to a 5% or fixed amount deductible before the policy pays for any damage. On expensive houses, this can really mean you are self insuring against all but major damage. Also, consider pruning your trees and shrubs. This is often forgotten, however, it can save a tree from being blow apart in a storm.