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How Tampa Bay construction sites are prepping for Hurricane Idalia

“This is part of the business, especially in Florida and especially this time of year.”
 
Construction continues at The Residences 400 Central Wednesday, April 26, 2023 in St. Petersburg. Many local businesses have been dealing with issues from the ongoing construction in downtown St. Petersburg.
Construction continues at The Residences 400 Central Wednesday, April 26, 2023 in St. Petersburg. Many local businesses have been dealing with issues from the ongoing construction in downtown St. Petersburg. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Aug. 28, 2023

When Hurricane Idalia makes landfall in Florida, storm surge, heavy rains and severe winds could cause devastating property damage to homes and businesses.

But how do you prepare a building to withstand the elements when it’s still under construction?

“Sometimes you can’t depending on the phase of construction and if you’ve got openings in the structure then you could really be at risk,” said Jillian Bandes principal of Bandes Construction.

Her company has several projects in the area including the Tampa Bay Innovation Center being built in St. Petersburg. The subcontractors Bandes works with spent Monday taking precautions like boarding up openings with plywood, securing any existing doors and windows, clearing debris and tying down loose materials.

In the most severe storms, some projects could be totally destroyed. But Bandes said larger developments are almost always covered by builder’s risk insurance.

John Murphy is regional safety director for Suffolk Construction, the general contractor behind the 400 Central skyscraper in downtown St. Petersburg. He said his company does a comprehensive evaluation of hurricane safety procedures every spring so that a plan is in place well before any storm is forecast.

“This heightened level of preparedness will include taking extra precautions that minimize risk from high winds and water damage impacts to our job sites.”

Still, rapidly changing forecasts mean that builders must often make split second decisions on whether they should move heavy machinery, disconnect power or send workers home, said Bowen Arnold, principal of DDA Development.

DDA has four active construction projects in the area including The Nolen, a high-rise condo in downtown St. Petersburg, and Casa Marti, a mixed-use development in Ybor City. All of DDA’s job sites have already shut down for the day and will likely stay closed until Friday.

During a particularly active storm season, Arnold said developers run the risk of falling behind schedule. That can affect a project’s bottom line.

“Those things are unavoidable though,” he said. “This is part of the business, especially in Florida and especially this time of year,” he said.

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