Two recently released predictions for the Atlantic hurricane season forecast “above average” activity, with the number of storms likely to exceed last year's total.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) predicts 12 to 15 named tropical storms, with 7 to 9 of them becoming hurricanes. Three to 5 of them may become major hurricanes, according to the forecast. The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University has a similar outlook.
For Steven Field, president and CEO of Largo, Fla.-based Invincible Associates, a roofing company, and Performance Exteriors, Invincible's sister company that handles all other exterior work, this is particularly troubling news.
Field says he has millions of dollars of work still remaining due to hurricane damage during last year's devastating storm season, and the coming months could be particularly challenging if major storms again hit his area. “Our first obligation is to take care of the work from last summer and fall,” he says. But he'll have to balance that obligation with his “regular” business and, if predictions hold true, repairing damage caused by 2005 storms.
Field has learned some lessons from last year, when three hurricanes ripped through Florida in a matter of weeks, causing billions of dollars in damage. For one, should the storms hit, he'll cap his backlog at three or four months and not hire unqualified people to meet the nearly unlimited demand. “I'm taking only the amount of work that I know we can handle without sacrificing quality,” says Field. In his haste to help people last year, he says he ended up overextending himself, and the quality of work suffered. “It happened to everyone,” he says, speaking of other Florida contractors. “There's no way we could suddenly triple and quadruple our size without negative ramifications.”
Port Charlotte, Fla., roofer Mark Kaufman was similarly affected last year, though on a much smaller scale. “We were on pace to do a million dollars for the first time last year,” he says. “We ended up doing almost two million.”
Through the GAF Master Elite network, Kaufman was able to find a good roofing crew in Georgia that came in to help him last season. They are prepared to help him again in case disaster strikes.
Coastal contractors aren't the only ones who will be affected if the storm season is as strong as predicted. Substantial hurricane damage historically affects both pricing and availability of many categories of building materials, such as OSB and plywood.