Stephany and Michael Carr
Protecting against the perils of hurricane force winds and rain
Collier County, Florida received 16 flood-related federal disaster declarations between 1960 and 2018. In the wake of a number of devastating storms, particularly Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Florida has continued to raise building code requirements to reflect the need for flood resilience. Many homeowners have taken voluntary action and invested in up-to-code resilience measures to protect their homes from future storm events. Stephany and Michael Carr made the decision to reduce their risk by installing a more wind-resistant roof and hurricane impact-resistant windows and doors. The Carrs credit these improvements, along with their home’s elevation when it was built, with limiting property damage during Hurricane Irma in 2017.
According to Collier County government, floods are a frequent occurrence for residents of Naples, Florida.¹ The most likely and significant flood risks include tropical storms and hurricanes, localized flood events, and sea level rise.² As local homeowner Stephany Carr explains, “We get flooding here; you just have to plan for it. The best way to do that is [to] build [your home] the proper way to begin with.” Mrs. Carr and her husband bought their home in 1989 for $100,000. As dictated by local building codes, the home was elevated six feet above the ground when it was built in 1984, or at the same level as the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
Over the years, the Carr’s home repeatedly faced major weather events, beginning with Hurricane Andrew and then Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Prior to Wilma, the Carrs had thought about investing in additional mitigation measures to protect their home against future storms, but after Hurricane Wilma, the then second-costliest hurricane ever to hit the state, the Carrs knew it was time to take action and protect their home and family.
Mitigation project details
In 2006, the Carrs used wind insurance funds from their homeowner’s policy made available post-Wilma as well as their own savings to make their home more resilient. The family worked with a contractor to ensure that the improvements matched code requirements in the Florida Building Code. The mitigation measures included adding a standing seam metal roof with continuous panels connected by strong fasteners, as well as hurricane impact-resistant windows and doors. The total project cost was around $100,000.
The improvements that the Carrs made to their home meet Florida’s Building Code standards for wind resistance.³ In the wake of Hurricane Andrew, the State of Florida took significant measures to standardize and upgrade building codes across the state. Complying with these standards can sometimes be costly, but the Carrs understood the value of investing in mitigation. Ms. Carr credits the up-to-code mitigation measures with saving her home during Hurricane Irma in 2017 when wind speeds reached 185 miles per hour.
3 - FEMA. 2015 International Residential Code. "A compilation of wind resistant provisions, prepared by FEMA". https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1488284470654-bda47fc07f9c25e97048c7c99cece955/2015_IRC_compilaton_of_wind_resistanc_provisions.pdf
Implications for homeowners
Mrs. Carr says that it is impossible to keep their yard from flooding during storm events given it is in a low-lying area that was historically swampland. But she credits the fact that the house was built at an elevation of six feet above ground, as well as the significant investments made to make their home more resilient to wind, for keeping her family safe during Hurricane Irma in 2017. While existing homes are not required to conform to the latest building code standards unless they are substantially damaged, Carr advises homeowners to strongly consider investing in bringing their homes up to code before a disaster hits. “Florida has been pretty good at getting the code right,” says Carr. “It’s a good thing that requirement is there or this area wouldn’t be suitable for living.”