Those with damaged homes, businesses left figuring out how to rebuild, overcome risks after Hurricane Ian

People who returned to damaged homes and businesses after Hurricane Ian are figuring out the best way to rebuild and how to overcome the risks.

"In today's housing stock, the old stock doesn't fare very well. The new stock does very well in experiencing these devastating hurricanes," said Chuck Fowke of Homes by John C. Fowke in Tampa.

Fowke is the immediate past president of the National Association of Homes Builders. He said building codes changed after Hurricane Andrew hit the state 30 years ago.

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"So one of the first things we did with the new codes was we made sure we had an abundance of rebar in the exterior walls that were attached to the roof components, and we'd use more straps in framing the house, in nailing down and making sure that the roof itself would not rise and compromise," he said. 

Fowke served on committees with the state of Florida and for the city of Tampa regarding hurricane construction.

"We changed how windows, garage doors, entry doors were applied to the structure of the residence so that they weren't compromised," he said.

Every disaster teaches a lesson, and Hurricane Ian will too.

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"From the wind data from Hurricane Ian and water intrusion that we had, we'll learn more about even in the future to understand more about how we can work with making houses more stable," said Fowke.

Rebuilding in the same place comes with risks. Construction sustainability consultant Jennifer Motsinger said Florida’s codes do a lot to reduce them.

"It's absolutely impossible to hurricane proof a home against water, and the structures that we've seen in south Florida have performed really, really well post-Andrew codes," said Motsinger. "People should feel good about what they're looking at in their neighborhoods as they see maybe there's some destruction over here. But you can also look to those folks who have newer structures, and that is part of the learning process that we have."

Now, the clock is ticking to get families back in their homes.

"Speeding up that process, that is the key to getting people's lives back together and especially for those that have been impacted. That is important for them," said Motsinger.

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What won’t speed anytime soon those are construction challenges from the pandemic.

"I think building going forward right now, we're still going to be dealing with supply chain issues. We're going to still be dealing with shortage of labor issues," said Fowke. "I know the Florida Homebuilders Association has had a concerted effort today getting with some of the large building materials suppliers to help us find tarps for people to put on houses."

So residents may wait longer to get what they need. While people wait, builders warn that scammers are already out. Construction experts urge residents to verify they are working with licensed contractors.

"We have our challenges, whether it's tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, fires. But the homebuilding industry cares about the integrity of what we build," said Fowke.