Florida is a wonderful place to live. It is, after all, “The Sunshine State”. After living in South Florida for several years one may actually become aware of the seasonal changes in the flora. Winter is the dry season. What Floridians call grass browns out. Some trees loose their leaves. Some palms turn a little more yellow as things dry out. Drought conditions set in and the “Snow Birds” flock in from “up nort”. Daytime temperatures usually hit the mid 80s and evenings drop into the upper 60s. If the Jet Stream sag’s far enough south, a cold front may blast into South Florida driving temperatures down to the high 40s at night. There is a difference between 45 degrees in South Florida verses Wisconsin. The air may be 45 degrees in both places but in Wisconsin you are standing on a block of ice whereas in South Florida you are standing on an electric blanket. The temperature of the ground and the surrounding water here never goes below 65 degrees.
The ground and water temperatures have a significant impact on our weather. As Summer arrives and the land and water in the Gulf of Mexico and the southern North Atlantic heat up tremendous energy is fed into our weather systems. Once the water temperature gets to the mid-80s, hurricanes are inevitable.
Kathy and I moved to Miami just in time for Hurricane Andrew in 1992. We moved to Punta Gorda in 2003 just in time for Hurricane Charlie. The eye of Charlie came directly over our house but we were very lucky and only suffered about $40,000 in wind storm damage. After surviving two direct hits from category 5 hurricanes I have been an eye witness to the destruction that these storms can cause and believe I have learned a few things from these experiences. The first is to insure your property, if you can get or afford insurance. The second is to prepare your property for the wind storm. The third is to “get outa Dodge”...and get out early so you are not in a massive traffic jam on an evacuation route when the storm hits. Based on circumstances evacuation may not be possible so it is prudent to have an adequate supply of hurricane supplies in your home when the season starts. Because of the dynamics of a hurricane including micro bursts, tornados and storm surge, you must be prepared psychologically to experience total destruction and loss of virtually all of your possessions. As I have stated metaphorically in the Bahama Cruise section, “You have to be ready to die”.
Preparing your home and other property when a hurricane approaches will make you feel good and may actually help prevent some property damage. After the larder of hurricane supplies are purchased and stowed and all loose patio furniture in moved indoors or lashed down, it is time to protect your windows and doors. This page illustrates the wind storm protection Kathy and I have constructed for our windows and patio doors. Storm Shield and Storm Catcher are a companies that provide cloth wind storm window protection using special reinforced materials. These systems are effective and expensive. We decided such a light weight, easily deployed system would be ideal for our needs but determined to turn it into a do-it-yourself project. I decided that standard 7.8 oz trampoline material was adequate for our needs. The material is sold in six foot and twelve foot wide rolls. We purchased about 40 yards of the six foot wide material and two hundred feet of 3” wide webbing. The one or two layers of webbing were rolled into the edges of the screens. The completed rolled edges consisted of 3 layers of trampoline cloth and one or two layers of webbing. This is a lot of material for any sewing machine to handle. The edges and panels were sewn using #138 treated thread and a Sailrite zigzag machine. Stainless Steel grommets with nylon inserts were fastened every 12 to 16 inches around the edges of the panels. These are the grommets used at the corners of small boat sails. The cost may be reduced significantly if nickel plated brass grommets were used and some of the tools required to complete the project were owned or rented. The materials and costs follow:
7.8 oz Black Trampoline Material 40 yards @ $10/yrds = $400
Black 3” wide Webbing 100’/roll 2 rolls @ $12/roll = $24
UVR Polyester Thread V138 White 16oz (3200yrds) $39
250 1/2” SS grommets # 250 @ $1.60 each = $400
250 1/4-20 Ackerman Machine Screw Anchors $100
250 1/4-20 x 1 1/2” SS Combo Truss Machine Screws $100
Ryobi 18 volt Screw Gun with 2 Batteries & Charger $100
Ryobi Corded Hammer Drill $60
1/4” Masonry Drill $3
1/2” Masonry Drill $5
Ackerman Machine Screw Anchor Setting Tool $4
12mm Dye $230
12mm Hole Punch $ 27
Total Cost $1,507
A professionally built and installed fabric storm shield system such as described above would cost between $9,000 and $15,000 and might provide a marginally better outcome following a significant windstorm. The only difference following a major catastrophic event would be the type of debris to pick up. I do have a suggestion. Do not try this at home. Get professional help to design and install your wind storm protection. I am a retired physician on a limited fixed income and love, too much, do-it-your-self projects. I am not a structural engineer and do not recommend that you attempt such a project on your own. If you have the resources, have the professionals do the job. This really is back breaking, time consuming work.