Of typhoons & hurricanes: Would your home hold up?
A hurricane by another name is typhoon. And, a massive one hit the Philippines on Nov. 8. Buildings in much of that area are not constructed to withstand high winds. While some Florida homes can take a hit from a strong hurricane, many cannot. It depends on the strength of the storm, where the home is located, how it was constructed and if the homeowner invested in a stronger structure or opted instead for a prettier interior.
A typhoon is a tropical cyclone in the Pacific Ocean; a hurricane is what we call it on the Atlantic side. Typhoon season typically runs about the same 6-month period as hurricane season; it starts in May and ends in October, about a month ahead of our storm season.
Typhoon Haiyan had sustained wind speeds of between 150 and 170 mph. According to storm coordinates on Weather Underground, there were also wind gusts up to 195 mph. Thousands are feared dead. News reports say that about one-third of the structures in the hard hit area of Tacloban were built of wood; some of the homes had grass roofs. These homes obviously weren’t built to withstand 150 mph winds, and you may be wondering if yours can.
STRONG CODES TODAY, BUT MANY OLDER HOMES
Florida has among the strongest building codes in the U.S. But prior to 1992, not so much. When Hurricane Andrew hit, the problems with patchwork building regulations, combined with sometimes spotty code enforcement, struck another blow. So in 1998, the Florida Building Code was authorized. The codes get updated every three years, and the latest is the 2010 Florida Building Code. The 2010 codes went into effect in March 2012, and they require stronger wind resistant designs for Central Florida and maintain the continued strong building standards for South Florida.
Check out the new map of Florida’s Wind-borne Debris Regions. This building code sets minimum requirements so that buildings in these regions can withstand the impact of debris that gets tossed about during a hurricane. Buildings must be designed to withstand the pressure differentials that happen when windows and doors are blown in by a storm – or they must have all exterior windows and doors protected. Note that in North Florida the wind requirement is for impacts of 115 mph winds, and in South Florida it is 180 mph.
Was your home built before the bar was raised on building codes? Keep in mind that building a house up to code does not mean it’s the strongest house you can build; it means it is the weakest the law allows.
HOW TO HELP TYPHOON SURVIVORS
Few people in the area struck by Typhoon Haiyan had insurance. For those who want to send aid, please don’t send your old clothes. Going through castoff items costs relief agencies money. Reputable international charities are collecting cash donations, and that’s a way to help.