Hurricane Impacts – Expect the Unexpected

Hurricane impacts to areas of landfall and within the reach of a hurricane’s winds, waves, and rain are graphically illustrated by recent events. First, Hurricane Harvey produced incredible flooding in East Texas.  Then the winds of Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated many of the Carribean Islands. God Bless those affected by these hurricane impacts, the rescuers and those helping with the rebuilding of these areas.

The reconstruction of these areas will take years.  The supply chain for lumber, plywood, drywall and other construction material will be affected. Prices escalate along with material shortages. These devastations

These events, historically, choke the supply chain for lumber, plywood, drywall and other construction material. Prices escalate along with material shortages. These devastations demand more labor for reconstruction than local markets can supply. Therefore, workers from elsewhere converge on these areas. Consequently, labor shortages can occur in the abandoned market.

As sad as this devastation is, admittedly, construction usually booms in order to restore the communities’ housing and infrastructure.

Hurricane Impacts – Schedule

More subtle hurricane impacts exist. For example, construction schedule impacts occur. Tracking these storms takes time. Hurricane tracking improves every year. However, these storms change track without regard for plans or lack thereof.

Consideration delivery. For instance, do you want to deal with any more material than that already on site?  Consider job prep. With the storm in mind, do you stop production in order to secure material and protect material in place? Consider safety. Most importantly, do you call off scheduled work to allow workers time to seek safe shelter and prep their own property?

Hurricane Impacts – Job Site Prep

Hurricane prep is insurance. Like all insurance, there may or may not be a claim. I have spent time and money prepping only to have a hurricane turn away. I imagine there were those in the eventual path that did not prepare but wished they had.

Heed the list below at a minimum.

If the power is on, importantly, turn it off.  Clean up the exterior then request that dumpsters be pulled. Likewise, secure loose lumber. Remember, install missing locksets on doors or otherwise fasten securely. Don’t forget to close windows. Consider taping or covering glass.

Ron White, the comedian, puts it this way, ” It’s not that the wind is blowing, its what the wind is blowing.”

Of course, there is always Builders’ Risk and Flood insurance. Above all, these policies need to be in force.

Hurricane Impacts – Examples – Unexpected Insufficiency

Although not a hurricane, here is an example of insufficient wind prep. The wind blew briskly in Kill Devil Hills as we finished loading the roof with plywood. We built a “dead man” to hold the plywood stack. The superintendent instructed that we drive 16d nails through the top sheets to protect from the wind. As a result, the nails secured the top six sheets or so. Of course, it wasn’t enough or I wouldn’t use this story as an example.

This happened in 1975. Weather forecasts weren’t great. It was windy, was supposed to get windier but not as windy as it got. We rode to the job site out of curiosity. Just in time, we arrived to see the top six sheets lift, lift, then fly off the roof in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean. The rest of the plywood disappeared in the same direction peeling off the rack like a deck of cards.

The next morning we recovered about ten percent of the plywood. The front door along with its hinges and part of the hinge jamb laid on the living room floor.

Hurricane Impacts – Examples -The Unexpected

In the late 1990’s I built a couple of similar office condo projects for American Flexspace, Inc. The first project was in New Bern, N.C. The second was in Garner, N.C.

In the fall of 1999, framing was complete and PME and insulation subcontractors were working their way through the buildings. Meanwhile, Hurricane Floyd was on its way to North Carolina.

The New Bern drywall material supplier was located in Kinston, N.C., and had anxiously agreed to supply the Garner project as well. As a result, all drywall necessary for the second project was already purchased. Furthermore, all the material was stored in their Kinston warehouse.

Hurricane Floyd arrived. Floyd dumped about seven inches on my project but twice as much on Kinston. Additionally, Kinston lies right on the Neuse River. The Neuse exceeded 500-year flood levels. Floyd trapped my drywall in Kinston.

Hurricane Impacts – Examples – Supply Chain Problem Effects 

Spared direct damage, my project experiences hurricane impacts just the same. Since I couldn’t get the drywall on schedule, my drywall subcontractor moved on to another project. I waited for the floodwaters to recede. It was all I could do.  The flood damage across the Eastern part of North Carolina had driven prices up and stocks down across the entire region.

The salesman arrived with the first delivery. He brought bad news. Having my drywall in his warehouse was causing his company problems. They had sold the rest of their stock and customers were demanding mine. Consequently, he said that I had to accept delivery of the balance or they would, indeed, sell it.

As a result, I had to place the drywall outside. So I had to buy tarps, rope and bungi cords to protect the material. Additionally, chains were needed to secure the driveway entrances. The Garner Police agreed to do additional drive-bys. I rented an extended boom forklift to move the material around. The supplier did send manpower to the site to stock the units.

I had to find a new drywall subcontractor.

Hurricane Impacts – Lessons Learned

Hurricanes create havoc. Hurricane prediction is not an exact science. Project preparation anticipating hurricanes impact can reduce potential havoc. However, the unpredictability of these weather systems prevents guarantees that hurricane preparation on any particular project will be effective or even necessary.







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