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.

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