WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Since Hurricane Andrew targeted South Florida in the early 1990s, the state has consistently adjusted its statewide codes and systems to account for an increasing intensity of hurricanes.
The tougher housing stock has generally produced positive reviews, as did improvements to power and light systems in the mid-2000s as intense storms rocked the state.
Those improvements were thought sufficient to withstand hurricanes.
However, as Category 4 and Category 5 storms become more common, it seems the goalposts have moved.
When Hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas, it had sustained winds of 185 mph – 40 mph more than the power and light systems, improved so recently, are able to withstand.
And at times, Dorian’s winds reached an astounding 220 mph.
Floridians must now reckon with the possibility that a similar, massive storm could create widespread destruction across the state.
A fear compounded by the fact that Dorian moved so slowly, leaving the Bahamas at its mercy for an extended period of time.
According to Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the state would have fared no better than the Bahamas if it had ended up in Dorian’s path.
“Whatever the building code is in the state of Florida – and we have the best building code in the country – it was not built for Hurricane Dorian,” Moskowitz says.
Some Florida officials now believe that all the hard work over the past few decades may be insufficient to protect Florida if another hurricane sweeps through.
Eric Silagy, president of Florida Power & Light, offers a grim analysis of the state’s preparedness for a storm like Dorian.
“This would not be a restoration of power. We would have to rebuild part of our system. Concrete poles could be snapped in these kind of winds. Homes will be destroyed,” he says.
Source: Palm Beach Post (09/13/19) Ostrowski, Jeff