2012 Hurricane Sandy gave us two valuable lessons: If people are told to evacuate, they should. And, people need to make their homes as secure as possible, because these storms are more powerful than before. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory website, Atlantic hurricanes are now 60% more powerful than they were in the 1970’s and their top wind speeds have increased by 25%. Sandy’s diameter was the biggest Atlantic hurricane on record, 1,100 miles.
Here are some key suggestions to make your home more hurricane resistant. Some suggestions entail new materials and techniques.
Windows: these must be secured because during a storm it is very important to keep high-velocity air out of the home. Depending on variables, the house could explode like a balloon if hurricane-force air suddenly whooshes in.(hurricane force wind can be between 74 and 157 mph.) Hurricane proof windows have proven effective here and in other areas. They are double glazed with a laminated layer on the room side. Roll down shutters can be operated at the touch of a button. High tech fabric panels or lightweight polycarbonate panels admit light to the home when installed, and are an improvement in impact tests over plywood.
Roof: You may want to check our your roof structure to make sure it has appropriate hurricane ties that attach the beams or trusses to the walls of the house. These may need to be upgraded. According to Craig Willis of Chesapeake Builders in Saint Michaels, the straps should be rated for 1000 pounds of uplift or more. He notes there are numerous configurations of straps available. These are more common in new homes. Retrofitting an older home might be done at a time when new insulation is considered, for instance.
Flooding: With hurricanes another worry is possible flooding. If you have a mortgage on your home the lender undoubtedly requires you to have flood insurance, a good thing. Car experts recommend a lift for your automobile in your garage if you have enough headroom, and reinforced slab. Some years ago a neighbor’s new Jaguar was ruined by rising waters in the garage. The mere thought of it made this Jaguar lover wince!
Debris: It is important to keep branches picked up, and to make sure trees are properly trimmed. Even on the interior of the home, individual rugs are easier to move than wall to wall carpet. And speaking from experience, newspapers are easier to recycle when dry than when wet!
Folks in New Jersey and New York had a false sense of security when Sandy hit, because prior to that they had “over-prepared’ for Hurricane Irene. But Sandy, the “Frankenstorm”, killed 233 people total and left an enormous path of devastation. Lucky for us in our area, the storm veered north rather than roaring up the Chesapeake Bay.
Pamela Heyne, AIA is a Saint Michaels architect.