Glazing Contractors Take Today's Start of Hurricane Season in Stride
June 1, 2011

Hurricanes Karl, Igor and Julia (from left to right on September 16) were part of the onslaught of Atlantic storms last hurricane season. Photo: NOAA.

The Atlantic basin is expected to see an above-normal hurricane season this year, according to the seasonal outlook issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which runs today through November 30, NOAA is predicting the following ranges this year:

  • 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
Each of these ranges has a 70-percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Bill Enderle, senior estimator and director of preconstruction for Key Glass in Bradenton, Fla., isn’t expecting business to come knocking as a result of the dour forecast. “Business is really dictated by other things … because the forecast is generally wrong,” he says.

John Blewis, general manager of Florida Glass & Aluminum Inc. in Fort Myers, Fla., would agree, noting that it’s usually not until after disaster has struck that business and homeowners take interest in hurricane-resistant products. “A lot of people don’t want to do it during hurricane season,” Blewis says.

And while there are lots of glazing products out there geared toward resisting hurricanes, Enderle says Floridians are showing more concern these days with energy performance. “We’re doing more insulating low-E to meet energy codes. Most of our buildings now have come out with energy performance calculations - that’s what they have to meet - and it’s even in excess of what’s required by the [Florida Building] Code. We’re doing a lot of premium tint glass and low-E glass,” Enderle says. “We are now seeing more private work, and even private work is looking for better energy performance because they’re trying to gain LEED certification.”

Blewis notes that he is seeing a trend, away from dry-glazed products that have been used in these installations in recent years.

“I think a lot of people are getting away from the dry-glazed set down here because I think they’ve had a lot of problems with it, so they continue to use the wet glaze,” Blewis says. “They [manufacturers] make it sound great but when you actually install it it’s not so great,” he adds.

While Key Glass never adopted dry-glaze, the company has noticed that structural sealing in general seems to have improved in recent years.

“The impact glazing systems that we install both storefront and curtainwall are extremely well made because they’re tested to higher design pressures than what we’ll likely experience in the next 15-20 years. Some of them are tested in excess of 90 psf for curtainwall, and that’s just way out of the norm of what these buildings will be exposed to. So by nature of that, they’re pretty well sealed up, because they won’t let water through, and the surrounding conditions are better prepared with water intrusion preventive measures being taken, so what we’re caulking to is better than what it used to be – waterproofing has taken major leaps and bounds in the last five years,” Enderle says.

While there may not be many new hurricane-resistant glazing introductions in the year ahead, glazing contractors and manufacturers are awaiting to see how product requirements will change based upon the publication of the 2012 International Building Code in late June.

“The rumor is that the code is going to follow the International Building Code and that the design pressures and the way they figure them are going to change all across the state,” Enderle says. “It will probably make it more stringent, that’s what we’re expecting, a more stringent code, which means that the manufacturers are going to have to look again and it’s going to keep engineers busy.”

NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook does not predict where and when any of these storms may hit. Landfall is dictated by weather patterns in place at the time the storm approaches.

NOAA stresses that hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline; strong winds and flooding rainfall often pose a threat across inland areas along with the risk for tornadoes.

Need more info and analysis about the issues?
CLICK HERE to subscribe to USGlass magazine.