Houses one-mile inland escaped the devastation of Katrina's storm surge, but they still faced an invisible enemy — wind. Where the waves stopped, the wind continued.

Structural damage, such as that suffered by this condominium roof, is often the result of inadequate attention to fasteners and other construction details, according to a preliminary report on Hurricane Katrina.
John W. van de Lindt Structural damage, such as that suffered by this condominium roof, is often the result of inadequate attention to fasteners and other construction details, according to a preliminary report on Hurricane Katrina.

This is where a team of specialists, funded by the National Science Foundation, focused its evaluation. “Our objective was to look at case studies of wood-frame residential structures to find out why some fared well and others did not,” says John W. van de Lindt, the study's principal investigator and associate professor of civil engineering at Colorado State University.

The team's preliminary findings suggest that, overall, structures designed to code fared well and new houses performed better than older ones. Often, small things mattered most. “In a few cases, there just weren't enough nails in hurricane clips to begin with,” van de Lindt remarks.

Clayton DeKorne, editor of COASTAL CONTRACTOR (a quarterly supplement to REMODELING), says that protective measures, such as using approved joist hanger nails and nailing down plywood completely, don't cost more but do take more time. “It's amazing how many shortcuts are taken,” DeKorne adds.

Christopher P. Jones, PE, coastal engineer and co-author of “FEMA 55,” the coastal construction manual for the nation, concludes: “You can blame a lot of groups. But there are two issues: whether the house is built to code and whether or not it is maintained.”

To read the preliminary report, go to http://www.engr.colostate.edu/~jwv/hurricane-Katrina-woodframe/.