Things we learned from Hurricane Irma.

Things we learned from Hurricane
November 15, 2017
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
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
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
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. 
Written By, 

Stephen Kauffman, CEO of DIVCO Custom Homes