National News

How will we fare in the next big storm?

Posted June 4, 2018 7:06 a.m. EDT

ALBANY, N.Y. _ Nearly six years after Superstorm Sandy devastated New York City, the city still lags on international standards for storm-resistant building construction codes, according to an industry survey released last week.

But hurricane damage is less of a risk upstate, where residential building codes are stronger. That's because they're based on newer standards, dating from 2015 and applied upstate since 2017. As a result, newer structures upstate likely are stronger.

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season started on Saturday.

New York City, which has its own building code, relies on 2009 construction standards, although changes made after Sandy in 2012 required new buildings to better resist strong winds and rain.

Those changes in 2014 brought city codes up to 2009 construction standards, known as the International Residential Code (IRC).

That was the conclusion reached in a report by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a nonprofit group supported by property insurance and reinsurance companies.

Out of 18 coastal states, New York ranked 12th, largely because of the New York City building code situation. On a scale of 100 points _ based on building codes, state and local code enforcement, licensing and educational requirements for officials and contractors and other factors _ New York scored 64.

It trailed New Jersey (90), Connecticut (89), Rhode Island (87) and Massachusetts (81).

Like New York, states that scored lowest in the survey, including Maine (54), New Hampshire (46), Georgia (68), Texas (34), Mississippi (28), Alabama (27) and Delaware (17), have no statewide building code.

Florida scored 95, highest in the survey. The institute's headquarters, located in Tampa, Fla., is a disaster-resistant structure of reinforced concrete. The building, designed to withstand high winds, is located out of a floodplain and features impact-resistant windows and impact- and pressure-rated entry doors.

On Oct. 28-29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy on caused an estimated $19 billion in damage to New York City. The late-season hurricane combined with a Nor'easter at high tide with a full moon, which made it the largest such storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin.

While damage to the Capital Region and elsewhere was much more limited, regional firms that specialized in repair and recovery of damaged property were overwhelmed by requests coming from the hurricane-hit areas.

Afterward, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said total damages included an estimated $4.5 billion in costs to city agencies, including $800 million for street reconstruction.

About half of the total damage was covered by private insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the rest was not.