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Recovering from Hurricane Sandy; It's More than Just Cleaning Up

In the wake of the damage and flooding of Hurricane Sandy, Criterium Engineers encourages residents, homeowners, condo/apartment owners, and commercial property owners to have a thorough inspection, especially as winter advances.

Criterium Engineers are assessing the clean up for Hurricane Sandy. President of Criterium Engineers, Alan Mooney, P.E.says the devastation is still a shock but cautions commercial and residential property owners to consistently document damage as much as possible. Criterium Engineers has been assisting property owners after natural and man-made disasters for over 50 years and offers the following advice to those affected.

“It is critical to document the damage whenever possible in as much detail as possible,” Mooney states. “When it comes to insurance companies and FEMA, more is better. Additionally, while it is understandable to want to begin rebuilding immediately, the process should be done without haste. Consulting with registered, credentialed professionals may be a consideration to qualify the extent of repair needed and its cost. As a result of the demand for repair, a home or building owner must also maintain a higher level of due diligence in these times of disarray. The best an owner can do is document what they had before and after damage, with photos to the extent possible.”

The Criterium team has already been involved in FEMA calls. For the hardest hit areas, approval through FEMA will often be required before residents can move back in and begin rebuilding. This is due to chemical and sewage contaminants. In the case of coastal areas subjected to storm surge, undermining of foundations is also a consideration.

Here are some additional considerations:

  • The effects of RAIN - Extreme amounts of rainfall can have dramatic effects – not only on the water tightness of the building but on its very stability. In a Hurricane, when the soil is no longer able to drain and the ground becomes saturated, the stability of the soil will likely become undermined. If on a slope, the result can be landslides. The extreme weight and pressure of saturated soils can cause water to enter basements and crawl spaces. It can even cause the foundation to fail and move the entire building.
  • The effects of WIND - Wind creates pressure, both positive and negative, places destructive force on buildings. Winds blowing against the building strain the structural members. If the force is not square on the structure, the forces created are known as racking. Most buildings are framed to withstand normal racking forces. A hurricane force wind is not normal.

Another component of wind is up-lift. Wind moving rapidly over a building creates an area of lower pressure on the leeward roof slope, walls, and inside of the building. The pressure inside may actually push the structural components outward. In minor cases, these may create cracks in the sheetrock. In more severe situations, such as in hurricane, a building without special connections is vulnerable to roof damage or even having the roof blown off.

  • The combined effects of WIND AND RAIN - A wind driven rain may create leaks in any building. Vertical siding is especially prone to leakage from a driving rain. Wind can actually drive rain up a roof and under shingles when it is funneled between dormers or other roof structures. The narrowing area creates higher wind speeds (the venturi effect). We have seen major water damage from this condition. Other points vulnerable to a driving rain include window frames, doors, and even well installed roofs.
  • The effects of MOLD and other environmental hazards – Even if the structure has not been compromised, if it has been flooded, a range of environmental concerns arise. If sewers backed up, sewage can be a problem. And as things dry out, mold is likely to grow. The degree of clean up necessary depends on the degree of contamination, but in all cases, rapid intervention is required or the structure can quickly become uninhabitable.
  • The delayed effects of SNOW - Snow on top of already compromised conditions, as experienced after Hurricane Sandy, can cause additional damage. Snow, depending on the moisture content, can be extremely heavy. Heavy (wet) snow can weigh as much as 40-50 pounds per cubic foot (pcf). Most roofs are designed to handle the added weight of snow but structures such as carports, decks and other types of outbuildings that may not be so well designed are usually the first to go. And even if the structure does not collapse, it may develop sags and cracks and be in more of a weakened state.

Criterium Engineers has a nationwide network of credentialed specialists along the east coast (and across the country) standing by ready to assist with a variety of services, including:

  • Inspections
  • Structural Assessments
  • Insurance Investigations
  • Repair Designs

among others. A critical piece of the analysis is whether damage is caused by wind, rain or both. This affects your insurance coverage as well as repair options. Please call us at 800-242-1969 to request assistance.