I remember the evening well. It was September 18, 2003 and the first leaves began to rustle from the wind of Hurricane Isabel. I had experienced a few hurricanes in the past while living in Florida’s panhandle. I had seen some damage to homes and business, but nothing catastrophic. Since I considered myself a “hurricane veteran”, I didn’t think too much about the stiff breeze blowing through the Richmond area. Isabel turned out to be much more than a stiff breeze. It wasn’t long before I felt like I was in the middle of a Storm Chasers episode.
My house survived the storm, but many Virginia homes did not. Hurricane Isabel was the most expensive disaster in the history of Virginia. The storm caused $1.85 billion in damages, destroyed over 1,186 homes, severely damaged over 9,000 homes, and caused minor damage for nearly 108,000 homes.
So how do you know if your home can survive a hurricane? Put it in the Institute for Business & Home Safety’s state of the art disaster lab. This $40 million lab uses 15 giant fans to simulate wind (nearly 100 miles per hour!) and a 750,000 gallon water tank to simulate hurricane force rains. What is the goal of this lab? The WSJ explains:
The goal is to improve building codes and maintenance practices in disaster-prone regions. Such labs, insurers say, help reduce their exposure to catastrophic losses—even at a cost of $100,000 for each large hurricane simulation.
IBHS’s new facility will give insurers the ability to carefully videotape what happens as powerful winds blow over structures. In the past, researchers largely relied on wind data from universities or computer simulations and rummaged through damage zones or photographed them from helicopters.
The video shows two similar full-size homes subjected to a Category three hurricane. One home has about $5,000 in extra fortifications. Which one would you want to live in?
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