This was a recording breaking year, but not in the way that coastal homeowners wanted it to be. For the first time in 100 years, two Category 4 or greater hurricanes made U.S. landfall in the same year. The damaged cause by Irma is estimated to reach levels that rival the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The federal government picks up the tab on roughly 60 percent of damage cause by the storms, leaving the other 40 percent to be addressed by state and local governments, insurance, and individuals to foot the rest of the bill. With an estimated average of $28 billion in damage per year, that leaves roughly $11 billion for individuals, insurance, and local governments to absorb. In the case of Irma, that number increases fourfold.
A Look at the Hurricane Damage Numbers for Florida
Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm when it made landfall, and resulted in 25% of the homes in the Florida Keys being completely destroyed. More shocking is that experts state that not one single home in the Keys was left untouched by the storm.
Despite being downgraded to a tropical storm by the time Irma hit Jacksonville, the storm surge resembled a Category 3 storm, resulting in flooding and in the St. Johns River reaching record levels.
Irma caused other damage to homes beyond total destruction. It’s estimated that 65% of the homes in the Keys suffered significant damage, either from flooding, eroded home foundations, debris, or severe wind damage to roofs and other parts of the homes, as noted by Jasper Roofing in Orlando.
Other areas, like St. Augustine and Miami were hard hit as well. At least 15 homes on Marco Island, where Irma first made landfall, had their roofs torn off. In Naples, roofs were ripped off and homes collapsed in the face of 140-mile an hour winds.
Hurricanes Damage Property in Three Ways
Wind is only one of the storm factors that cause damage to property during a hurricane, but it is a significant one. Even in a comparably mild Category 1 storm, homes can experience some damage due to the 74-95 mile per hour winds. When a hurricane reaches Category 5, like Irma, wind speeds exceed 157 miles per hour, leaving severely damaged and destroyed properties in its wake.
But wind isn’t the only damaging storm element. Storm surges – when the water rises above high tide levels and combines with the high-speed winds to pound property and land with water – have a significant damaging effect. Water weighs roughly 1,700 pounds per cubic yard, and during a Category 5 storm is thrown at structures, like homes, at nearly 160 miles per hour.
A third element is rainfall. Hurricanes are driven by the warm, moist air in the oceans, letting them build up strength. Once they hit landfall, however, the storm’s power source disappears, and the storm slows. While the winds may lessen, it means that the storm itself stalls above land, dumping rain on roads and structures and resulting in flooding according to the experts at DYW Water Damage Restoration.
Irma’s devastation to homes and businesses was not unheard of, but was brutal and significant. With the damage caused, with homes utterly destroyed and others pulled apart by high winds, storm surges, and rainfall, it’s not surprising that Florida faces billions of dollars in repairs to structures in the coming months.