Storm Surge and the Structurally Unsound: Impacts of Hurricane Flooding on Houses

Hurricane storm surge poses a major threat to coastal communities. As hurricanes make landfall, they push a wall of ocean water ashore with tremendous force. This storm surge can cause extreme flooding, especially in low-lying areas, with water levels reaching as high as 20 feet or more above ground level. The effects of this flooding on houses can be severe, even catastrophic. From foundation damage to total destruction, storm surge flooding impacts the structural integrity of homes in multiple ways. Understanding these impacts is key for homeowners in hurricane-prone regions.

Storm Surge Height and Destructive Power

The height of storm surge is a major determinant of its destructive capacity. Higher storm surge equals more intense flooding, with faster moving and higher volume water. This tremendous hydraulic force presses against the exterior walls of homes with incredible pressure. Six feet of surge flooding can demolish large sections of standard wood-framed house walls. Eight feet of rise or more leaves little standing but a home’s core and roof structure.

Even houses reinforced to withstand hurricane-force winds can fail under the intense lateral pushing water load of a tall surge. Two-story homes are especially vulnerable, as the first level floods while upper levels catch wind, leading to buckling or collapse. The more intense the surge height and flooding, the greater the probability of major home structural damage. Surge levels over 10 feet almost guarantee massive failures in all but the most robustly engineered coastal dwellings.

Soaking, Erosion and Foundation Damage

Even if they are not outright destroyed by storm surge, houses can suffer crippling impacts to their structural soundness. The floodwaters themselves cause damage, as prolonged soaking deteriorates building materials, warps support beams, and erodes foundations over time. Additionally, fast flowing surge water essentially batters the substructure of flooded homes for hours or days, scouring away supporting soils and rocks.

Undermined foundations crack, shift and sink unevenly, profoundly compromising the integrity of the overall structure. Concrete or masonry walls develop gaps and fissures as they settle while upper levels remain stationary, straining connections to joists and rafters. Any house left standing after lengthy major surge flooding likely has serious structural issues. Post-flood inspections invariably reveal alarming cracks, separations, and misalignments caused by uneven sinking and soil erosion. These undermine the load-bearing capacity the home requires to be considered structurally sound.

Mold and Rot: Pervasive Secondary Impacts

Even after surge waters recede, the problems compound for flooded homes. Waterlogged materials allow for rampant mold growth inside walls, floors, and furnishings. Wet wood beams, internal supports and external sheathings also rot progressively. Unchecked mold infestations create respiratory health hazards for occupants while advancing rot silently destabilizes framing elements. This pervasive moisture damage and material decomposition behind the scenes further undermines the overall structural stability of surge-flooded homes. On the surface, houses may appear largely intact at first. But on the inside, they continue to weaken bit by bit through these secondary moisture impacts in the weeks and months after the storm. By the time an owner discovers a buckling floor or wall, the unseen decay and mold growth have often already structurally doomed the dwelling.

Is it Worth Trying to Save Them?

For homeowners saddled with a surge-flooded house, a difficult question arises: is saving the home even worth the cost and effort? Foundation repairs, mold remediation, beam replacement and soil stabilization can run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – exceeding many homes’ pre-flood market values. Local building codes may require lengthy permitting processes or trigger improved codes during repairs, driving costs even higher still.

Delays also allow ongoing deterioration as owners wait on contractors, financing, permitting, and inspections. Depending on a home’s initial value and extent of damage, owners often reach the unfortunate conclusion that their once beloved home simply cannot feasibly be restored to a structurally sound, livable condition. Tragically, cherished dwellings that held a lifetime of memories must be left behind due to insurmountable structural and financial realities.

Insurance Battles and Seeking Compensation

Surge flooding leaves many houses totally demolished or structurally too unstable to repair at reasonable cost. This represents a painful financial loss for storm victims. Homeowners’ insurance policies may provide some coverage, but claims processes often involve steep hurdles in the aftermath of such widespread coastal disasters. Mass claims strain insurer resources, leading to systematic delays or denials to conserve funds. Even good-faith insurers often dispute the extent of structural instability, pressing homeowners to fund questionable repairs themselves.

By contacting competent legal counsel specializing in denied or limited insurance claims related to hurricane home damage, you take an important step toward getting fairly compensated. An experienced lawyer can advise if you have grounds to compel your insurer to fully cover your losses. They can also determine if negligence by other parties – home builders, for example – contributed to the extent of damages. In the long and arduous path to recovering from catastrophic surge flooding, getting legal help improves the odds of securing your financial rights.

Hurricane storm surge unleashes fierce destructive energy against houses in its path. The force of the floodwaters themselves, combined with ensuing moisture damage, takes a heavy toll on the structural integrity of soaked homes. Even houses left physically standing often prove to have critical underlying compromises, making saving them an unreasonable proposition for owners. Yet insurers all too frequently fail disaster victims through unwarranted claim denials and delays.

By consulting qualified legal counsel, you improve the chances of obtaining fair insurance compensation, or possibly damages from negligent home builders. After having your life turned upside down by catastrophic hurricane flooding, getting proper legal support helps the long process of staying on your feet and securing accountability. Though material possessions may be lost, hope lies ahead – if you know your legal rights and work with an experienced professional to demand the resources you need to rebuild.

If you’re struggling to receive an insurance payout following a storm, contact us today.

You can visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or give us a call for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.


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