A coupe of posts in the Hurricane season thread have prompted me to post this new thread. It was posted that the possibility of another crazy season is in store next year and maybe this time DR will not be so very lucky.
As I have mentioned in another thread, I have recently been working along side loss adjusters in the USVI following the impacts of both Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and have been a resident in the Caribbean for more than 17 years and involved in the design and construction of numerous buildings of all types as well as living through many tropical storms and hurricanes, but not seen anything so close as this years major storms.
In DR we were incredibly fortunate the tracks of either of those storms was not 50 to 100 miles further south or west, or DR would have suffered badly in certain regions and the festive season would have been grim.
I thought I would share a few thoughts to home owners and renters in DR on what could happen, based upon what I have seen inspecting numerous windstorm damaged dwellings and businesses and interacting with the experiences of the insured in the badly damaged USVI.
Only when both Irma and Maria were heading in our direction, DR1 members were desperate for information on what to do with their property. It is too late then, so now is an opportune time to plan ahead for the next season and beyond and I hope the following helps:
• Look at your power situation locally. Look at the power transmission in particular and if the feed is by overhead power line and expect significant long delays (several months perhaps) in restoring power and cable services. Some areas of DR have private providers and underground distribution and they will likely be served better after a storm. I am thinking that the East Coast and Las Galeras might fare better. But my suggestion is that you look at solar photovoltaic DC supply and battery storage and inversion to AC. I met insured persons who had solar but entered into contracts to sell the electricity to the grid and were sat at home without power and regretted their short sightedness. Generators are a secondary option and noisy and need regular maintenance if your power is out for months.
• Also change to cooking by gas and maybe also for water heating. Electric stoves may look good but are absolutely useless with no juice.
• Think water supply. Even if you have cistern storage without power you might not be able to access that source of water and showering will become a desperate need. And time to think water purification too. We are fortunate here on DR1 to have jstarebel who has invaluable, perhaps unsurpassed, experience of water systems regionally.
• Think laundry. No electrical supply and a need to wash clothes sodden with sweat.
• Thankfully not so many homes in DR have timber frame constructed roofing however, I’ve seen many such roof failures from the ring (bond) beam detaching itself from the block wall due to poor vertical reinforcement to rafter uplift through poor hurricane strapping to purlin uplift where nailed rather than screwed. But by far the most common roof damage is the uplift of the roof covering again due to poor fixing. And often the solar panels go too because of poor fixing. Well fixed panels don’t go anywhere. Good roof truss construction and proper hurricane clipping to a bond beam which is anchored down to the foundations through continuous rebar in concrete infill columns and concrete filled block voids.
• But water ingress is the costly event. Make sure that roofing is good first then look at your windows. Louvre windows and jalousie will be no use in severe rain driven winds and the water will find it’s way in through them. Even through poorly constructed external doors water finds it’s way in. Mosquito screens will get destroyed so best to remove and store them. Don’t think hurricane shutters are the answer either. I’ve seen the folding ones fail due to poor fixings. Consider the fabric ones or better still the time proven permanent Bermuda type shutters. I’ve seen windows screens behind hurricane shutters blown out. Big windows screens and sliding doors are a big risk. I've seen external walls blown in and find out that the construction has been cement board on stud framing and stucco...it doesn't work with these powerful storms.
• Check all your window and balcony door fixings and if they are spaced more than 12 inches apart question the adequacy. If they are corroding, change them to stainless steel.
• Back to roof. The roof sheeting should be overlapped by two upstand profiles. And properly sealed and screwed. Look at all the flashings and especially the ridge capping. Gutters will take a hit for sure. Concrete roofs will normally fare well but keep the elastomeric roof paint maintained but any parapet capping may suffer. If you have roof tiles or shingles expect a lot of damage. Even properly installed standing seam roofs let water in…generally at the details. Out door balconies are also subject to extra uplift forces. The wind gets into these areas and exerts significant stresses and can be the beginning of the end for the main roof. Look at you balconies and any porches and imagine the worst.
• Internal gutters will prove a disaster in the making in general. They won’t handle the rainfall and outlets will back up with the wind-blown debris. The ponded water on the roofing will then find its own way down under gravity and that could be through concrete cracks and weaknesses.
• Plan for water ingress. Protect any thing vulnerable. Design to avoid vulnerability. Make sure your content cover is enough. Internal finishes easily get damaged and internal doors invariably are ruined along with kitchen cabinetry and toilet vanities. Water also gets under tiling and especially in DR where there is a tendency to lay 1st floor tiles on a bed of mortar this could be a big issue. Sheetrock will get damaged and be ruined and a source of mold growth and if the water is from above all will need to be changed.
• Look at your garden and surroundings. Even neighbours places. I’ve seen whole roofing slammed up against another house and the insured may get a small sum to clear such debris which was not theirs. Check your insurance policy carefully for what is covered externally. Weather heads will go and are they covered?
• Also check if your property is sufficiently insured and the value at risk is sufficiently covered.
• And importantly before a storm hits or is a probability go take record photographs before the event and in the unfortunate event plenty immediately afterwards for the insurance claim.
• Water being the main problem could impact you through flood damage depending on where you live and how your house is sited. Check your cover.
• Finally check your deductible. It is a percentage of the sum insured and quite often a large sum. Insurance premiums will go up throughout the Caribbean for everybody even if the storms missed you. Understand your insurance and evaluate the risks as your number one New Years resolution.
Again, please take some time to evaluate your property well before hurricane season comes around and take early actions to avoid the potential misery that has afflicted so many islanders this year.
I do wish the Dominican government would do so likewise.
As always plan for the worst and hope for the best.