Hurricane Ian decimated entire neighborhoods in its path, but many homes in Punta Gorda and Naples stood up to the storm. After Ian stalled for hours over Punta Gorda, with winds that topped 135 mph, the city had the typical flooded streets, downed trees, and scattered debris—but widespread destruction to homes and other structures did not unfold as anticipated. Many residences and buildings remained intact and showed minimal exterior damage. Some experts attribute this to the stricter statewide storm-specific building codes initiated after Hurricane Andrew.
In an interview with the Washington Post in early October, Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of the Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center—which aims to provide adaptive solutions to climate change—called Hurricane Andrew a “game-changing hurricane” that was a turning point for establishing more stringent building codes.
The first updated code after Andrew, the South Florida Building Code, was established in 1994, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Later in 2002 the Florida Building Code was incorporated statewide.
After Hurricane Charley ravaged Punta Gorda’s older homes and structures in 2004, many residences and buildings there were rebuilt to modernized codes, which were later improved again in 2007.
When it comes to Hurricane Ian’s impact on Punta Gorda, structures in the city that remained intact seemed to be constructed according to 2007, and subsequent, building codes. (The current edition of the Florida Building Code was adopted in 2017).
Modernized building codes in Naples made the difference there as well. In an article published in Naples Florida Weekly in late October, the Naples Area Board of REALTORS (NABOR) credited Collier County’s building codes for limited property damage to the city. “Indeed, our county’s hurricane building code standards and quality craftsmanship by local builders helped to greatly reduce the amount of major structural damage in the area,” the organization stated.
Although the September 2022 Market Report released by NABOR was a snapshot of the Naples housing market before Hurricane Ian, and showed a historically-stable September, broker analysts are confident that home values will continue to hold, and the city will make a swift recovery.
“Such an event always brings with it a rebuilding boom,” said Premier Sotheby’s International Realty CEO Budge Huskey, “and most people will make the decision to restore and improve rather than exit the area. It’s remarkable how quickly progress is being made, each and every day.”
Naples Building Director Craig Mole told the City Council in mid-October that most newer homes in Naples were not penetrated by Ian’s storm surge. “Most of the new homes did not get water in their home,” he said, according to Naples Daily News.
Still, Molly Lane, senior vice president at William Raveis Real Estate, considered the possibility of seeing “FEMA change the base flood elevation on new builds.”
Drainage improvements to Naples and Collier County’s storm water infrastructure, as well as new ordinances for flood prevention management, contributed to Naples’s rapid recovery, NABOR pointed out.
In the aftermath of Ian 16,260 buildings in Naples had incurred no damage, city officials reported. An additional 1,937 properties sustained minor damage, and another 518 buildings experienced less impact.
City inspectors performed drive-by inspections of water line marks from storm surge and determined that 708 buildings had major damage, and 22 structures were destroyed.
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