Hurricane Harvey will be remembered as an epic flooding disaster – and rightly so. But there is more to the story of this brutal hurricane which struck in late August 2017, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).
The IBHS has published a comprehensive post-disaster study examining damage that occurred as a result of Harvey’s Category 4 winds. The IBHS Hurricane Harvey Wind Damage Investigation Report chronicles the property damage, provides quantitative data that researchers can use and offers strong advice to homeowners and business owners still rebuilding now, as well as residents in any area of the U.S. prone to severe wind events.
“Key findings in this report will guide home repair, roofing and construction considerations for years to come in wind-prone and wind-damaged communities,” Roy E. Wright, IBHS president and CEO, said in the group’s announcement. “The decisions we make as we build or repair our homes – and even as we prepare to evacuate them – can make an enormous difference in whether we have a home to return to after the storm passes.”
Lead study author Tanya M. Brown-Giammanco, PhD., IBHS vice president, research, shared the report’s findings which include: Although asphalt shingles are the most popular form of roof cover — used on 85 percent of the 213 houses studied — more than half the homes assessed had lost shingles, and many of those suffered further underlayment or structural damage.
“Beneath the shingles on roofs are sheets of plywood or other roof decking materials. To allow for expansion and contraction as temperatures change, these sheets usually have a gap between them. IBHS recommends sealing this gap with special tape or other material because when shingles are torn off in a storm, your house essentially becomes an open bucket for the rain, which enters through all the gaps,” Brown-Giammanco said.
Other key findings from the IBHS report:
- Nearly a quarter of the attached structures surveyed – such as porches, sunrooms and pool cages – were damaged by the storm, often becoming the culprit in further damage to the main house structure.
- Unprotected doors were damaged up to six times more frequently than protected doors. Of all the doors assessed, sliding glass doors fared the worst, with up to 60 percent damaged regardless of protection.
- Covering doors and windows with shutters or even plywood helps reduce wind damage and water intrusion but works best if ALL doors and windows are protected, not just the side facing the water.
- Hip roofs, which are more aerodynamic than gable end roofs, were damaged less frequently.
- Single garage doors failed more often than double garage doors.
“The findings on garage doors are consistent with other recent studies following severe wind events, but this is an area where we hope to conduct further lab studies to determine why a smaller single garage door fails more readily that larger double size doors,” Brown-Giammanco said. “Regardless, reinforcing garage doors and buying the strongest wind-rated door available are smart moves because once a garage door fails, major damage to the home and roof is often inevitable due to the wind pressure that can get into the house.”
The study also found that the highest wind speeds did not always correlate with the highest damage frequencies. The influence of building age and the residential building code in effect at the time of construction, construction type and exposure also contributed to damage frequencies and sometimes outweighed the wind speed effects.
“The takeaway here is that the newer homes, built to modern codes, generally fared better than older, weaker buildings,” Brown-Giammanco said. “Texas does not have a statewide building code or enforcement standards to ensure codes in place are followed. However, Texans can choose to build stronger homes, following voluntary resilience standards set forth in the IBHS FORTIFIED Home program.”
“If the homes and businesses we investigated had been built to more resilient standards, recovery in these wonderful communities would not have been as painful or as prolonged. We urge homeowners and business owners to look at the science and make the choice to build stronger as they repair or replace their homes or business facilities in this special part of Texas,” Brown-Giammanco concluded.
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