It’s September, and that means peak hurricane season. Whether a home will survive a major hurricane is a question that comes up all the time when buyers are looking for property here. We can never tell what will happen in any storm, since Mother Nature can be as ruthless as she is nurturing. What we can say for sure, is that Anguillian homes are built to last, and are built hurricane-first.
By now we’d have seen the carnage that Hurricane Ida wrought on New Orleans, and the rest of southeast Louisiana. 16 years to the day of Katrina, no less.
Better safe than sorry
Speaking from a technical perspective, Anguilla has some of the highest building standards where extreme weather is concerned. Both by mandate from the Department of Planning, as well as just culturally among those in the building trades. We simply don’t take chances with our buildings.
Hurricane Donna was the watershed (pardon the pun) moment for the island. Up until that point, many of the island’s structures were still wooden. It made sense. It was cheaper and easier to build. Over 500 homes were destroyed, leaving over 1,000 people homeless.
This attitude towards building was reinforced 35 years later when Luis wreaked havoc on the island causing over $50m in damages.
In all the years since, the island overwhelmingly used reinforced concrete in all its major building construction. We now have a generation of builders who are adept at building with concrete. And they know how to build quickly, and safely.
Beautiful bomb shelters built to last
The standard building unit used here is a 8” wide x 8” high x 16” long concrete block. Every wall is reinforced with steel rebar at 16”. This spacing means that every single block has steel going through it. In other countries, they are more lax, with 18” or 24” spacing more typical to reduce costs.
The recent earthquake in Haiti was tragic, and a lot of the damage and casualties came from building collapses from concrete walls that had little to no steel reinforcement. It is a desperately poor country, and steel has always been a major construction cost for concrete buildings.
Here in Anguilla, steel rebar runs continuously from the foundation, up through every wall, right up to the roof – typically also built with reinforced concrete. Then, to finish it off, every block pocket is filled with concrete to ensure that the entire system works as a unit.
Cisterns are typically poured solid concrete walls of 10”-12” thick and reinforced with concrete. In Anguilla, concrete is typically a minimum of 3,000 psi. For comparison, the Florida building codes mandate 2,500psi as their minimum.
To sum up, Anguilla’s buildings are beautiful, expertly crafted bomb shelters.
Trial by fire
We saw the resilience of our buildings during the ravaging of Hurricane Irma. Older structures took the brunt of it. Newer homes fared very well, all things considered. Compared, even, to our neighbours in St. Martin/St. Maarten, where dozens of damaged homes were simply abandoned and still lie empty.
A lot of the credit has to go to our builders who have really done a phenomenal job over the years of improving local building standards. Our homes are safer and much more resilient, and it makes it a lot easier for us to rebuild once the storm has passed.
If you absolutely had no choice but to suffer through a major hurricane, Anguilla is among the safest places to ride out a storm.
Extreme weather is becoming the norm
There’s been a lot of debate over climate change and climate science in general. What is hard to deny, is that storms are becoming more frequent, and more powerful. For our part, we build with all of this in mind, and Anguilla leads many places in how prepared we are. You can rest assured that when you buy a home in Anguilla, you’re investing in an asset that will withstand some of the worst weather.
No matter how quiet the hurricane season can be, once it gets to September, we are all on high alert. As one local weather tracker loves to remind us, “It only takes one”.