A year after Hurricane Michael — is Florida rebuilding strong enough?

Posted at 4:51 PM, Oct 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-10 04:26:12-04

The scars of Michael are all over Tyndall Air Force Base. Sustained winds of 160 mph ripped through the place.

“Every building on base needed a close look. About all of them needed some level of repair," said Col. Brian Laidlaw.

A year later, only half the buildings are back. But from devastation comes opportunity.

“We are really, in effect, rebuilding a base almost from scratch," said Brig. Gen. Patrice Melançon.

It’s a chance to rebuild stronger. Michael is the new benchmark they’re seeking to beat.

“Some level of assurance the next hurricane that comes through will not do the same thing," said Melançon.

Everyone rebuilding is likely considering the same. Florida already has one of the toughest building codes in the country-- installed in 2002.

But, storms like Dorian, last month, were stronger. The near miss now has state officials pondering an update.

With it would come more expense. Hurricane proofing can add thousands to a home’s price tag.

“That’s where the rubber meets the road for this type of research," University of Florida research assistant scientist Ryan Catarelli said.

At the University of Florida— scientists are using state-of-the-art wind tunnels. They’re finding ways to build stronger for less.

New building materials. New designs.

“I think we are making progress, but there is always more progress to be made," Catarelli said.

New research already suggests weatherizing is worth the cost.

Austin College found across Florida every dollar spent on protection equals about six in reduced damage.

The upgrades at Tyndall won’t come cheap. More than $4 billion for the new base. It’s money they hope will stand up to Mother Nature, next time.

Tyndall is working to secure the funding from Congress. Despite some concern the storm would force the base to close — officials say there are no plans to do so.