My good friend David Stewart and I recently spent a week in Biloxi helping some folks rebuild their homes from damage sustained during Hurricane Katrina. It may not be page one news anymore (the Mississippi Gulf coast may never have been page one news), but there are still thousands of homes that remain uninhabitable a year and a half later.
We went not only to help but to continue to lend still-needed moral support to that community. We also went to learn. David learned how to replace all manners of flashings and ridge vents as well as a thing or two about chasing leaks. He discovered that due to pre-existing creative design work found on some homes, it is not always possible to come up with a “book” solution to some roofing problems. We agreed that, “You can’t fix stupid … but you can repair it in some cases.” He learned, as you already know, that in spite of what most homeowners and building owners may think, all leaks are not from the roof.
The most poignant lesson for me came at the week’s end on a driving tour of the storm-ravaged coast. Our guide was David’s associate, Becky Montgomery, a resident of Pass Christian, a few towns to the west of Biloxi. Pass Christian (pronounced “pass cristee-ANN”) was a picturesque seaside village dotted with lovely antebellum homes and mansions. Many of these homes, with damage too severe to rebuild, have been replaced by empty lots. City Hall, the bank, and several other businesses share tents and trailers on a plot of land in the heart of town. The damage seems to fade as you move inland a half-dozen blocks, only to discover that you run into more destruction that came from the bay to the north, again increasing as you approach the water’s edge.
Along the way we passed by skeletal structures that Becky would point to and say, “That one was hurricane-proof.” After the third one, it finally struck me that this was the lesson of the week. As a result of Katrina, the roofing and construction industry along with the insurance industry will react with higher standards for wind uplift. Homes and buildings along the Gulf Coast will be built higher and the flood plain maps will be redrawn. But we will not build structures or roof coverings that are completely immune from the worst that Mother Nature can hand out.
Should we give up on trying to build hurricane-resistant structures? No. Should we work to continuously improve roofing and construction methods to better withstand weather’s harshest events? Absolutely. Using terms such as “hurricane-proof” to describe a building or it’s roof? Pure folly.
P.S. - Please join me in Las Vegas next month for the International Roofing Expo. Roofing Contractor is proud to be the official publication of this important industry event, and we’ll keep you up to date on the details in print and on our Web site,www.roofingcontractor.com. We also publish On Site, the event’s official show dailies, as well as an IRE pocket guide called “2007 Ticket to the Show.” The educational opportunities at this year’s event promise to make it the best lineup ever. When you are there, be sure to look me up. I would love to get your thoughts on the roofing business where you live. Roofing Contractor will be featured in booth 1336. See you there!