Engineers Report on Hurricane Sandy: Shocking Discovery

I’ve returned from a day of building inspections in Rockaway Park NY damaged from Hurricane Sandy.   I was prepared to relive the memories of visiting flooded neighborhoods in New Orleans after Katrina, and wind damage after Andrew, Wilma, and many other storms.  I was even prepared for sights such as the now familiar tent cities, Red Cross relief centers, and hearing the many touching eye witness accounts of 4’ high levels of water, furniture floating down the street, and the many lives forever altered.   But I’ll tell you one thing I wasn’t prepared for.  It wasn’t the fact that not an engineer, property adjuster, nor attorney really knows what damage occurred or how to properly assess the situation, that’s something only a Florida engineer could know.  What struck me most was seeing so many homes armed with the false sense of security of Duct Tape on their windows.

History Lessons 

I remember the time well.  It was 1979 and Hurricane David was approaching South Florida.  The local news station was instructing viewers how to prepare for the storm.  Duct-taped windows were all the rage back then, and I remember reporters illustrating ‘best methods’ of taping windows.  Where they got their information from I may never know, but my family diligently put the tape on our windows as we were told.  I remember sitting by the taped window in our dining room watching the storm blow by.  My family was very lucky David wasn’t worse when it made landfall in South Florida.

But that was Before Hurricane Andrew and nearly a quarter century ago.  Clearly the last 20 years with all the lessons learned from so many storms since and the arrival of the Internet have taught the public how ridiculous that false sense of security really is to those who feel safer inside these seemingly protected windows.

For once and for all, I’ll help set the record straight here:  If a wind storm is going to strike, and glass is at risk of breaking, it will break at the same wind speed, the same debris hit, and the exact same internal pressurization with our without duct tape on the glass.  In fact, the tape may cause larger chards of glass to become flying debris and be even more dangerous (see FLASH warning, even their ‘Go Tapeless’ campaign, Resources).  I urge you to take heed that if a storm is approaching and you are potentially in its path, and you do not have a product approved missile impact protection system installed, EVACUATE the building.  If you feel the need and can protect the openings of your residence, there are code approved methods of installing plywood, inexpensive code approved shutters, even fabrics that can properly assist you.  Taping your windows with the masking, packing, and even blue painter’s tape I saw in Rockaway Park will NOT make you the least bit safer.

Our Mission

The adjusters, engineers, and attorneys in the northeast do not understand and cannot be properly educated on the effects of a wind event like this Superstorm Sandy.  I see now that there’s a lot we can do to help the industry as we head back and forth from Florida to the north to help.  We need to open our extensive storm files and share the research and information that we have gathered and studied at Engineering Express for the good of the industry.  We need to offer examples, illustrate real world solutions, and explain what only storm experts from Florida can share.  Get ready because we’ve decided to launch a continuing online educational series for all to benefit.  Pull up a computer, tablet, or smart phone.  You’re going to get the tips, easy to understand design theories, code interpretations, and yes, even the secrets behind the storm damage for all to use no matter where you are or what you do in the industry.

Subscribe to our free educational series and help spread the word.  We’ll even take your questions and comments.  Let us help you get ready before the next storm hits.  There will be many more dangerous storms ahead, many more lives at risk, and this is our opportunity to make a difference.

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