Code Adoptions Help Make Gulf States More Prepared for Gustav and
Memories of 2005's Hurricane Katrina were all too clear for much
of the Gulf Coast this past weekend as the threat of Hurricane Gustav
loomed before the region. Fortunately, Gustav, which made landfall
yesterday morning as a category 2, was not nearly as damaging as
many had expected.
According to initial estimates from Risk Management Solutions (RMS),
a provider of products and services for catastrophe risk management,
insured losses from Hurricane Gustav could range between $4 billion
and $10 billion (Katrina is estimated to have caused $81.2 billion).
The Gustav damage estimate includes on and offshore losses from
wind and storm surges, but does not include potential damage to
the levees in New Orleans or flooding from excessive rainfall that
may occur the days following the storm.
While Gustav impacted a similar region as Katrina, much has changed
in the Gulf States over the past three years; some changes may have
helped the area be more prepared for this storm as well as ones
that could occur in the future. One of the most important changes
has been the adoption of statewide building codes. Before Hurricane
Katrina, some states along the Gulf Coast did not enforce building
codes as stringently as other hurricane-prone states, such as Florida.
But just as Hurricane Andrew changed Florida and its codes, Katrina
did much of the same for the Gulf States. Nanette Lockwood, director
of legislative affairs for Solutia Inc., was very involved in legislative
efforts that lead to the adoption of buildings codes in some parts
of the Gulf Coast. She shared with USGNN.com some ways that
the states are different today compared to three years ago.
- Louisiana has a modern, statewide building code in place through
new legislation with requirements for enforcement. Coastal adoption
began in March 2006 and the rest of the state after January 2007.
"Enforcement started slowly with lots of educational challenges,
but has significantly improved. Only 13 jurisdictions were enforcing
updated codes prior to Katrina and 362 are doing so today,"
says Lockwood. "Consequently, new and significantly renovated
homes and businesses should be hurricane resistant for the first
time in most areas."
- Mississippi also has a modern statewide building code in place
through new legislation for schools throughout the state.
"Modern wind and flood requirements apply through new legislation
to new and significantly renovated homes and businesses in five
coastal and southern counties," says Lockwood. "Older
codes throughout the state must be updated to state code in 2010
per newly adopted legislation in 2008. Unfortunately, areas not
enforcing codes are still not required to enforce the state code."
- Alabama has a modern statewide building code previously in place
through legislation for hotel, movie theatres and state-owned
buildings and schools. According to Lockwood, attempts to pass
legislation that would require a statewide code for new homes
and businesses failed in each of the last two sessions.
"However, many coastal jurisdictions have updated to modern
building codes in anticipation of successful legislation in the
2009 session," she adds.
- In 2005 Florida's modern statewide building code in place throughout
state excluded the panhandle via legislation, but new legislation
eliminated that exemption in 2007.
"From a building code perspective, Florida is now the most
hurricane-resistant state in the United States, which is important
since it is also our most hurricane-prone state with more than two
times the major hurricane strikes (category three or higher) than
any other state," says Lockwood. "All in all, our Gulf
coast is more hurricane resistant than ever before, but it has a
way to go before we can truly call it hurricane ready," she
Stay tuned to USGNN.com this week for more post Hurricane Gustav
Need more info and analysis about the issues?
HERE to subscribe to USGlass magazine.