As Miami and Houston begin recovery, rebuilding is in focus

by Kelly McCabe

As Hurricane Irma’s strength wains to a post-tropical cyclone while it continued its path into Georgia on Tuesday, Florida residents are starting their recovery process — a process that Houston itself started recently after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the city. 

The destruction left in the wake of both cities is as-yet immeasurable, but Texas Department of Public Safety officials said that statewide, Harvey caused billions in damage, heavily damaging 40,000 homes and completely destroying 7,000, The Washington Post reported. The storm’s death toll has reached 42 in Texas. In Florida, millions are still without power, and Hurricane Irma’s U.S. death toll has been upped to 12. Moody’s Analytics estimated that there’s $64 billion to $94 billion in damage, NPR reported. 

An eye on the future

As both cities attempt to put the storms behind them, many are thinking about how to prevent — or at least lessen — damage from future hurricanes and flooding events.

Natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes tend to shake people’s literal and figurative foundations and lead them to think of how to avoid such destruction in the future. These concerns not only touch on the nation’s infrastructure, but commercial and residential real estate, as well. 

The 2015 American Community Survey showed that fewer than 28 percent of homes in Miami-Dade County meet today’s hurricane building codes, which were put in place after Hurricane Andrew’s destruction in the early 1990s. Homes built in southern Florida since 1994 must withstand winds and flooding that accompany a Category 3 hurricane via hurricane shutters or impact-resistant windows. 

But because the rule only applies to new construction, a recent Quartz report showed that 50 to 75 homes in southern Florida are exempt from the building codes. The 2017 CoreLogic Storm Surge Report shows that Florida has the most at-risk homes in the country, InsuranceJournal reported, with nearly 349,000 at extreme risk, about 1.1 million at very high risk and about 1.7 million at high risk. 

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