As Tropical Storm Gordon enters the history books, at least one organization is hoping it will serve as a reminder to get their homes storm-ready.
Very little, if any, structural damage has been reported from Gordon, which brought heavy rain and gusty winds to the Panhandle and south Alabama prior to hitting near Pascagoula, Mississippi. At least one local organization believes Gordon should be a wakeup call for homeowners.
“Whenever there’s a big gap of time between storms or even the threat of storms, people become complacent. Seeing [Gordon] come this close I think is a wakeup call and should be,” said Zack Gilmore with Rebuild Northwest Florida – a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization formed in the wake of Hurricane Ivan – whose 14th anniversary is this month.
“On Thursday, September 16th, 2004, at two a.m. the eye of Hurricane Ivan made landfall at Gulf Shores, Alabama,” intones the Rebuild video. “With its highest winds of 140 miles an hour occurring over northwest Florida.”
Ivan was the fourth largest natural disaster in U.S. history. About 9,000 of the area’s 155,000 homes were razed; the storm inflicted major damage on about 15,000, and 140,000 had received some sort of damage. Fifty thousand people were displaced.
Rebuild Northwest Florida began offering wind mitigation for homes; home-hardening gear such as hurricane clips, gable bracing, and other improvements designed to protect homes from objects that become airborne in high winds, and the wind itself.
“Several of our homes went through the tornadoes a couple of years ago, without any structural damage,” Gilmore says. “We offer a hardened home that not only gives peace of mind, but from what we understand, saves people [money] on homeowner’s insurance.”
But groups such as Rebuild can only do so much. Gilmore says there are measures homeowners can take themselves, to help ensure a stronger building and a safer property.
“Large branches from trees that are growing over the roof that I might need to cut back,” says Gilmore. “Do I have a lot of things in my yard that could blow and break a window? Does it look like the gable ends of my home and stout and are sealed? Basically, just routine maintenance.”
And it’s a simple formula – the closer you are to the coast, the more likely you’re going to experience the winds that can damage your home. Gilmore points to areas such as the beaches and downtown Pensacola and Gulf Breeze.
“Pay attention anytime there’s even a threat; that way you can prepare your home under blue skies,” Gilmore says. “And being that close to the coast, you’re going to bear the full brunt of the storm; so it just makes sense to me that you would have a plan in place to protect your home and family.”
Hurricane season in the Atlantic is starting to get cranked up. Besides Gordon, there are Hurricane Florence and two other developing systems off the coast of Africa. Could there be more action in the Gulf? Rebuild Northwest Florida’s Zack Gilmore says stay tuned.
“This is where you want to have a plan; be able to work your plan, and not be caught unaware,” says Gilmore. “Always be watching the news; never be caught from behind with this.”
More information can be found at www.rebuildnwf.org.