Digging Deeper into Ian's Destruction - December 2022

Mon, Dec 05, 2022 at 8:00AM

Mike Silvers, CPRC, Silvers Systems Inc. and FRSA Director of Technical Services

As I finished last month’s column (www.floridaroof.com/frm11-22p12), I had just returned from hurricane damage reconnaissance in areas north of where Hurricane Ian made landfall. I reported on some of my early observations made just days after the hurricane and addressed issues with limited access to some hard-hit areas, noting how important it is to gather information prior to tarping and other repairs taking place. I also discussed how much information could be obtained from many types of media directly after these events. Sometimes, those two types of information gathering can converge, and with a little research and applied reasoning, there is much that can be learned.

Shortly after Hurricane Ian hit southwest Florida, I was looking at the damage on NOAA satellite imagery, slowly making my way up the coast trying to pinpoint different types of roof damage, noting the locations of buildings. I was looking for missing or damaged roof coverings, displaced air conditioning units, etc. Some damage is easy to spot, others require a closer look to find.

The roofs on a pair of condominium buildings located in Ft. Myers Beach, directly on the Gulf of Mexico, looked odd. In particular, I had trouble making out what I initially thought was a piece of strangely shaped mechanical equipment and then realized that what I was looking at was actually a couch. As I looked closer, it became clear that I wasn’t looking at a roof at all but instead at the inside of every apartment on the top floor of both buildings – kitchens, bathrooms and all. These were two good-sized buildings that had suffered a catastrophic failure of the overall roof assembly. The image made an impression. A few days later while looking at hurricane damage in the Tampa Bay Times, I was struck by a picture of these same buildings taken from a helicopter just a few days after Ian’s landfall. It was much clearer and more detailed than the NOAA imagery. You can see how compelling the above picture is. As I examined the shot closer, my attention was drawn to the houses across Estero Boulevard, behind the condos. It seemed that they weren’t as severely impacted by the storm surge as many others in this area but, even though they were protected from the wind by the much larger condo buildings, they still had significant damage. When looking closer at the shape and size of the debris near the houses it didn’t correlate with the damage to the structures. Then it occurred to me that the debris could be the roof assemblies from the condo buildings, which would indicate that the roofs may have been relatively intact when making impact with the houses. As I looked closer at a two-story house behind the others and across a canal there was similar debris. Could the roof structure have blown that far away? I couldn’t help but be curious and I hoped for some additional information. Read more.

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