Keeping Your Roof On
in a hurricane

hese last hurricanes in Florida and the Carribean (Frances, Charlie, Ivan) have reminded me of how vulnerable cheap housing is to high wind. The following is what I, personally, would do IF I lived in Florida in a one story home of modest proportions. This is ...

in addition to installing ... hurricane strapping

That's the small metal brackets that you nail to the boards that join the roof to the walls of your house. These alone might just save your roof. If you haven't got them on and your live down there ... get them on ASAP. I would guess that it's now part of the general building code in hurricane prone states (especially since Andrew tore off everybody's roof in Homestead some years back).

The Nautical Motif

I like a good stout rope in foul weather. So do sailors. They don't break. They have just a little "give" which nature respects (it weakens the forces at play by spreading them out over the time it takes to give a little). It keeps ship parts from breaking under heavy wind and sea loads.

So, basically, what I would do before a hurricane strikes is to batten down my house with rope ... and ... some cheap fish nets to hold down the shingles, etc. That's the good thing about a hurricane as opposed to other natural disasters ... you know it's coming hours in advance and maybe even days in a general sort of way. So you can do something about it instead of just putting your head between your legs and kissin' it goodbye. With tornadoes you get minutes, with an earthquake you get zip ... you can't even get out of the house into the open.

Anyway, roping your house has plenty of inherent problems.

So, let's get to it

The single most important thing is ... anchoring the rope. Obviously, if you have a rope that will hold up a 4000 pound truck, it will do no better than a 200 pound test line if the anchor you choose can be pulled out with that 200 pound force. I see nowhere to go but two options.

The post hole approach:

hurrica2.gif - 4kb Here, you put concrete-filled post holes about 4 feet from the wall with an embedded steel tie-down point (like that shown below). Then you can attach the ropes or some sort of boat cleat to fasten the ropes to ... ala boat mooring. It's guaranteed that your roof will still be there when the storm is over. You just have to put up with the hurricane reminders on your front lawn when there is no threat. They should be low enough in the ground so that your mower doesn't hit them. At least they won't be an obstacle or nuisance.

hurrica3.GIF - 4kb

The reason they are about 4 feet from the wall is that they are much harder to pull out sideways than straight up as would be the case if they were right by the side of the wall.

The protocol would be to toss a ball of string attached to the rope over the house then use that to pull the bigger rope over. Secure it on one side then secure it loosely on the other until it was definite that the 'cane is comin' your way. Tightening down the ropes is sure to cause a little shingle and gutter damage so you wouldn't do it unless the threat was completely real.

hurrica5.GIF - 3kbI've tried to think of some way to anchor rope down without doing any previous installation but cannot come up with anything reliable which would be readily usable. Camping stakes just won't make here. The only other option that I believe is viable is to put strong eye bolts in the foundation if it is accessible. You could tie off on them and they would hold as well but this also requires previous installation and some tough drilling into concrete. This tactic might even be stronger. I doubt that any hurricane on earth would ever pull out such an eye bolt.

The net

The next aspect is to "net" the entire house with some light weight fish net. It must be just strong enough to hold the shingles on. I would have pieces of netting the width of the space between two post hole tie-downs. A complete net for the whole house would weigh too much to easily deploy. hurrica4.gif - 5kb Remember, you're doing this by yourself. You'll probably have to go up on the roof dragging sections to the top and rolling them off each side. Then, at the base of the house, you just attach them to the post hole tie-downs. These attachments don't have to be particularly tight like the roof ties. But they shouldn't be able to come loose under any circumstances. Leave everything separate so that if one thing fails, the rest aren't pulled away by it, i.e. don't tie everything together into one big piece of rope-net-anchors.

The net holes don't have to be very fine ... just so that it covers each individual shingle. Note the added protection of having a first line of defense in the front of your home to catch flying debris. Of course, I assume you've already boarded up your windows. If your house is completely "wrapped" in netting, you can store stuff between the net and your wall, like outdoor furniture. Anything you put there is another line of defense. Trimming the trees around your home would help to reduce the flying debris problem and stowing it between the net and wall would make that debris work for you instead of against you. A great deal depends on how much time you have to work on your defense. The ropes, of course, come first. If you lose your roof, you lose all.

Your final concoction should look like a hodgepodge of ideas that seem incongruous. But it will work because nature doesn't give a damn about what it looks like ... it just seeks out the weakest link and tears things apart. If everything reinforces everything else and is sometimes redundant ... all the better. You should be ready for anything except "storm surge". What to do about that? Just leave.

PS All the above is very much applicable to trailer parks. You CAN secure a flimsy trailer. You can even ride out the storm in it if you're not near water or heavy potential flying debris.

Question: Why isn't there an all weather emergency vehicle operating during the worst part of a storm. They do make such a vehicle although some of its accoutrements are useless in a hurricane ... they are called "tanks".


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