Panhandle building code standards under review after Hurricane Michael

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Lance Erwin works with a neighbor in Mexico Beach to repair parts of his roof blown off by Hurricane Michael. Rules are looser in the Pandhandle, allowing construction that couldn't stand up to the storm's 155 mph winds. Greg Allen/NPR

Panhandle communities’ building codes — currently set with much lower hurricane resistance standards than the rest of the state — will likely be revised to be consistent with other areas, indicates University of Florida civil engineering professor¬†David Prevatt, who is leading a team making recommendations to the Florida Building Commission.

“What we saw there was damage to pretty much all types of construction, all types of materials and all types of housing,” he told National Public Radio (NPR). “What was not damaged were houses that were well-engineered.”

Meanwhile, Craig Fugate, the former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) head, said that policymakers failed to include information about a powerful Panhandle hurricane in the 19th century, before there was accurate record keeping.

“If you add that storm back in, and now particularly if you add Michael back in, it’s going to force a much higher wind-load requirement for the coast well inland based upon those two storms,” Fugate said.

Currently some Florida Panhandle communities require buildings to resist wind speeds of 130 mph or less — far lower than Michael’s 155 mph gusts.


  1. No matter what codes and rules and regulations following those codes, the main ”issue” FKA ”problem” will always be the enforcement of said codes, etc..
    When I was hired to become THE Building Inspector for at the time a smaller city on in SW FL, near where I was born and raised, I could not believe the laxity of enforcement that was obviously the case from the previous incumbent.
    At first, all the contractors wanted to get rid of me ASAP; however, with the total support of my boss and his boss, I was able to convince the contractors of the benefit of following all the plans and specifications as approved. When hurricane Andrew devastated Homestead area,, those same contractors, knowing then that they were ”on the hook” for any and all deficiencies started thanking me for my efforts to save them from the persecutions that, rightfully, took place in the SE areas.
    Now too old to fight the same battles over again FOR the owners and contractors in Mexico Beach and near by, I can only hope they are able to see the LONG term benefit of having a serious code compliance effort, and support their local folks trying to save lives and treasures there.


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