Considered Vulnerable, Mobile Homes Are Battered but Largely Intact

[ad_1]

Irma’s rapid loss of strength is one reason. When it lashed the Keys on Sunday, the hurricane was rated a Category 4, with maximum sustained winds of at least 130 miles an hour. By the time the storm reached Naples on the southwest coast, it had been downgraded to a Category 2, with winds about 25 miles an hour weaker.

But toughened construction and installation regulations for mobile homes also played a role.

The improved standards, which require sturdier framework and more and better anchors, were put in place after Hurricane Andrew, which destroyed tens of thousands of homes in South Florida in 1992.

“Mobile homes that were built after Hurricane Andrew are a different animal than those built earlier,” said Michael Peltier, a spokesman for Citizens Property Insurance, based in Jacksonville.

In Old Bridge Village, a park with more than 500 units in North Fort Myers, Irma affected almost all the homes. But in most cases the damage was minimal.

Carports, which have open sides and can act like sails in high winds, appeared to suffer the most, with some partially collapsed and others completely blown off and twisted into heaps of mangled aluminum. Some screened porches, or lanais, which can also be lifted up by the wind, were damaged as well.

Awnings were sheared off some homes, and here and there strips of siding or roof shingles were missing.

Photo

Al Cristy, 93, of Marathon in the Florida Keys, stayed in his mobile home during Hurricane Irma.

Credit
Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Only a handful of homes appeared to have significant roof damage, but those that did had been damaged by water as well. Residents of the park who entered a home where about half the roof had been peeled back reported that the interior was badly flooded, probably beyond salvaging.

Stephen Braun, the chief operating officer of Home Town America, a Chicago company that operates mobile home communities in Florida, said he drove through five of them on the Gulf Coast this week. Of the 2,800 homes, he said, it looked like perhaps 40 had been destroyed or heavily damaged.

Ms. Tucker estimated that about 10 percent of the homes in her community on Key Largo, Silver Shores, suffered significant damage. She said she thought that most of the homes had fared well because they had numerous anchor cables, including some that go up and over the roof.

Those over-roof anchors were added to mobile home regulations after Hurricane Andrew. At the time, most homes were only secured by connecting the frame to rods buried in the ground.

Not all older homes have been upgraded. Generally, homeowners said, the additional anchors have to be installed in order to obtain insurance. But many people do not buy insurance, as premiums are relatively high and coverage is usually below the home’s full cost. The average cost of a new two-bedroom, mobile home with 980-square feet is $37,100. But mobile homes can cost from $5,000 to $500,000.

Most mobile homes — the industry refers to them as manufactured homes, because they are assembled in a factory and shipped to a home site — are of wood-frame construction. Newer models have sturdier frames. Exterior siding is typically aluminum on older models, vinyl on newer ones. Screened porches, carports and awnings are of similar materials.

Damage from the hurricane varied from street to street, and in many cases from house to house. In one East Naples neighborhood, one home’s carport had been destroyed. But two doors down the only apparent damage was a small piece of siding that had been bent by the wind.

In the Keys, with travel limited, some people were still unsure if their homes had survived.

Shawn Burnstad was waiting in Key Largo to be allowed to drive further down Route 1 to Little Torch Key, just 30 miles from the end of the road at Key West.

He owns a three-bedroom mobile home there. Built three decades ago — before Andrew — it is anchored to thick coral. For Irma, he’d covered the windows with plywood.

Friends had sent him post-storm aerial photos of the area that they found on Facebook. A home in front of his appeared to have been demolished, but the homes on either side seemed untouched. Some other homes nearby had what appeared to be light damage to their roofs.

The photos appeared to show about a third of Mr. Burnstad’s roof ripped open, with the wooden rafters showing. Mr. Burnstad worried that he might find heavy water damage inside.

“You don’t know for sure,” he said, “until you actually get to the house.”

Continue reading the main story

[ad_2]

Source link