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Safeguarding Your Waterfront Property During Hurricane Season in Southwest Florida

Florida faces more hurricanes and weather disasters than any other US state, especially its southern coasts. Preparing yourself and your waterfront is essential for staying safe and avoiding costly property damage. So, let’s start getting ready for hurricane season together, with our ultimate guide to hurricane preparedness:

South Florida's sunny skies, hot weather, and high humidity make it an ideal destination for your waterfront lifestyle and year-round boating excursions, but these conditions also create the perfect storm for severe hurricane activity. Hurricane season starts in June – when Florida, and its surrounding ocean, start heating up – and peaks between mid-August and late October, when water temperatures are at their highest.

Starting your preparations early allows you to take control and confidently face the challenges that come with hurricane season. That’s why we’ve created this guide to equip you with practical solutions and actionable steps that will make your preparations as straightforward and manageable as possible.

Step #1: Essential Tips for Keeping You and Your Family Safe

Hurricane season in Southwest Florida can be pretty scary and can threaten you, your family, and your property, particularly if you're not prepared. As a waterfront property owner in Florida, it's crucial to take proactive steps to be ready in case of a hurricane.

Safety comes first! Ensure that you’re ready to stay home or evacuate as soon as you hear the weather reports with the appropriate emergency safety precautions.

How to Keep You and Your Family Safe:

  1. Tune into Local Alerts: Subscribe to any text or email emergency notification alerts that are available to your area.
  2. Create an Evacuation Plan: Having a plan in place will help you avoid unnecessary chaos when it's time to act on your exit strategy.
  3. Have a Stay-at-home Plan: Even if you're not in an area where you're advised to evacuate, you may experience hardships if you stay at home. Have plans in place to account for loss of power, and have backup food and water on hand.
  4. Compile a Disaster Supply Kit: In a container that you can easily grab when it's time to go, make sure you have a flashlight or two, batteries, money (cash or an emergencies-only credit card), copies of your vital documents (social security cards, birth certificates, property paperwork, etc.), and first aid supplies.
  5. Fill Up Your Gas Tank: Don't wait until the last minute. As soon as a hurricane is even possibly on the horizon, fill your car's gas tank, and have an extra container filled just in case.

Knowing how to protect your property from hurricane damage isn’t enough. Minimize home damage and protect your property investment by taking safety precautions before a storm approaches.

Tips for Securing Your Home:

  1. Protect Important Documents: Keep important papers, including a thumb drive with backup computer files, in a plastic Ziploc bag.
  2. Secure Outdoor Furniture and Equipment: Bring in all of your outdoor furniture and equipment to keep it from becoming airborne and causing more damage.
  3. Trim Trees and Shrubs: Trim your trees and remove damaged trees and branches from your property. Keep property clear of fallen branches and debris that can become airborne in high winds.
  4. Install Storm Shutters: Install storm shutters on windows and doors to protect against flying debris and strong winds.

Step #2: Looking Out for Hurricane Categories & Storm Classifications

Having a comprehensive understanding of each hurricane category ensures you’re ready to act as soon as you hear an important weather announcement. Weather alerts use the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which classifies and announces hurricane categories based only on their wind speed

But hearing a number between 1-5 doesn’t necessarily prepare you for what to expect. It's crucial to understand what factors, such as rainfall and wave size, come along with each wind speed so you’re prepared for the potential damage and danger it can cause. In fact, storm surges are often the most deadly part of a hurricane.

Here's a breakdown of what each category means in terms of potential damage:

Tropical Storms and Tropical Depressions

Anything below Category 1 (sustained winds of 74-95 mph) is not classified as a hurricane. These are considered tropical storms or tropical depressions. While they lack the force of a hurricane, they can still bring heavy rain and flooding. In some cases, these storms might cause more destruction due to their slow-moving nature, resulting in prolonged periods of heavy rain and flooding. This is particularly concerning for areas already prone to flooding or with poor drainage systems.

Category 1: Minor Damage (74-95 mph)

  • Wind Speed: 74-95 mph.
  • Impact: Minor damage, such as shingles being blown off roofs and fallen branches.
  • Advice: Secure loose items and be prepared for power outages.

Category 2: Moderate Damage (96-110 mph)

  • Wind Speed: 96-110 mph.
  • Impact: Major roof or siding damage, widespread power outages, and uprooted trees.
  • Advice: Reinforce windows and doors, and consider evacuating depending on your property's vulnerability.

Category 3: Significant Damage (111-129 mph)

  • Wind Speed: 111-129 mph.
  • Impact: Significant structural damage, power and water outages lasting several days.
  • Advice: Execute your evacuation plan, especially if you live in a mobile home or low-lying area.

Category 4: Severe Damage (130-156 mph)

  • Wind Speed: 130-156 mph.
  • Impact: Severe damage including roof removal, uninhabitable areas, and widespread destruction.
  • Advice: Evacuate immediately and take all necessary precautions to protect life and property.

Category 5: Catastrophic Damage (157 mph or higher)

  • Wind Speed:157 mph or higher.
  • Impact: Catastrophic damage, total destruction of buildings, and long-term uninhabitable conditions.
  • Advice: Mandatory evacuation is essential. Leave as soon as warnings are issued.

An Overlooked Threat: The Dangers of Storm Surges

Storm surges refer to dangerously high water levels and waves that occur throughout the year, especially during hurricane season and alongside the storms listed above. Characterized by heavy rain that contributes to rising water levels, waves from these surges can climb over 20 feet and result in significant flooding, danger, and damage.

Step #3: Invest in Your Seawall: Reduce Hurricane Damage & Save Thousands 

Seawalls serve as vital barriers during hurricane season that mitigate the impact of storm surges, strong waves, and flooding. Without one, you’re putting the structural integrity of your property at risk and leaving yourself open to over $10,000 per year in hurricane damage repairs.

By investing in a custom-built and properly maintained seawall, you could save more than $400,000 over the course of its lifespan. However, the key to ensuring your seawall protects your property from hurricane damage year after year is through regular maintenance and proper inspections. 

While you can perform preliminary checks yourself, it's advisable to have a professional conduct a thorough inspection. Experts can distinguish between cosmetic surface cracks and structural problems that require urgent attention.

A professional assessment is particularly important if:

  • You notice significant structural cracks.
  • There are visible signs of erosion undermining the seawall.
  • The seawall shows any signs of shifting, leaning, or bowing.

Step #4: Repair & Prepare Your Dock 

Docks may not protect your waterfront property like seawalls, but they are crucial for protecting your boat. Keeping your dock in good condition can also help prevent damage to your home. 

When constructing your dock, customizing it to your waterfront environment and your boat type can significantly simplify your hurricane preparation. A well-constructed, custom dock will be more resilient throughout the year, making it easier for you to tend to any hurricane-ready dock maintenance

Start preparing your dock by inspecting it for:

  1. Loose Decking
  2. Worn Pilings
  3. Signs of Rot

While DIY inspections and repairs are a great start, having a professional inspect your dock is highly recommended. Experts can identify problems that might not be visible to the untrained eye and provide specialized solutions to reinforce your dock against hurricane-force winds and waves.

Building a Hurricane Resistance Dock Tailored to Your Boat

A custom dock designed for your specific boat type, property location, and waterfront conditions is more durable and better at resisting hurricane damage. Even though it comes with a higher cost, it becomes an asset for protection rather than a liability.

Here are a few things to consider during your construction process:

  • Your Dock Structure
  • Materials
  • Types of Boat Lifts
  • Your Current Boat Type or Potential Future Boats

Step #5: What To Do With Your Boat & Boat Lift

Preparing your boat, boat lift, and dock for hurricane season is crucial for protecting your investment and ensuring you’re ready to secure your favorite vessel at a moment’s notice.

When it comes to protecting your boat, never leave it on your boat lift during a hurricane. The force of the storm can easily damage or dislodge them from the lift, causing catastrophic damage.

Start preparing your boat by:

  • Turning off its electrical system
  • Tying down anything that can't be removed
  • Applying extra boat fenders
  • Remove canvas and all loose items
  • Clean out drains to keep water flowing
  • Pump out and close fuel valves
  • Gather all crucial documentation

There are several options to safeguard your boat, but the best course of action depends on the size of your vessel. Smaller boats can easily be trailered inland to store on higher ground, whereas larger vessels that are harder to move will need to be securely stored at the dock or mooring.

These are a few common boat storage solutions:

  • Dry Storage at Home: If your boat is on a trailer or stands at home, make sure it's securely strapped down. Jack stands can wobble in high winds and may become dislodged. Partially filling the boat with water can prevent toppling. Remember, do not leave the boat on a hydraulic lift.
  • Anchorage at a Dock: If you choose to leave your boat at a dock, secure it with at least two anchors. Opt for a floating dock with high pilings, as storm surges can overwhelm boats at fixed docks. Anchor lines should be at least ten times the water depth at the mooring location.
  • Dry Storage at a Marina: While storing your boat in a bay at a marina may seem like a good option, these structures can sustain significant damage during heavy winds. Ensure the marina's facilities are robust enough to withstand the storm. Hurricane holes provide protection from destructive winds and storm surges. With the innovation of floating docks, your boat can rise with the storm surge, offering an additional level of safety.

There is a lot to think about and do when a hurricane is on its way. If you're unable to tend to your boat personally, arrange for a friend or boating professional to execute your hurricane plan. 

Preparing your boat and boat lift for hurricane season in Southwest Florida requires careful planning and proactive measures. By following these tips, you can significantly reduce the risks and protect your valuable investment.

Step #6: Choose the Right Marine Construction Contractor

If you're looking for the perfect marine contractor throughout Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Pinellas, and surrounding counties, Duncan Seawall stands out as a reliable partner. Our experts are skilled in the complexities of marine construction, committed to quality workmanship, and dedicated to providing unsurpassed customer service to ensure a seamless and successful project from start to finish. Whether you need seawall construction, dock building, or any other marine-related services, our team is equipped with the knowledge and experience to handle your needs.

View our product catalog here to explore our wide range of services and products, or contact us to schedule a visit to our design center and discuss your specific requirements in detail. Let Duncan Seawall be your trusted partner in all your marine construction needs.

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