Our week-long series, “Are We Ready?,” examines hurricane preparedness on Cape Cod and the Islands. It’s a collaboration between WCAI and the Cape Cod Times.
Today, Times reporter Christine Legere examines the strengths and limitations of flood insurance for our region, and Cynthia McCormick looks at the new Nantucket Cottage Hospital, which is being built to the more stringent building code of Florida, hardening it to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
Underwater and underinsured
Many Cape homes in high-risk zones lack flood insurance or have far less than needed to cover hurricane damage
By Christine Legere
BARNSTABLE — The prospect of a hurricane tearing up the East Coast through Long Island and Connecticut, hitting Cape Cod and heading up to Maine “is an event that keeps insurance people awake at night,” according to Robert DeSaulniers, a flood insurance specialist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s northeast region.
“Experienced insurance property underwriters, without looking at hurricane maps, will tell you we are so overdue for a major hurricane,” he said.
Federal disaster funds could be a long time coming and meager in size, DeSaulniers said, so purchasing National Flood Insurance Program policies through the federal government is a property owner’s best bet.
The majority of those living along the coast of the Cape, however, remain either unaware of the option or simply resistant.
The series of nor’easters that ripped through the region in January and March gave coastal residents just a small taste of what could happen if a Category 3 or greater hurricane were to veer their way. Properties that had never been flooded before were underwater, and when it all drained away, owners had to grapple with hefty repairs, which in some cases have yet to be made.
Islanders prepare for nature’s worst
Officials say new Nantucket Cottage Hospital will withstand Category 5 hurricane
By Cynthia McCormick
NANTUCKET — The new Nantucket Cottage Hospital scheduled to open by year’s end is prepared for a blow — a really big blow.
The 106,000-square-foot, 14-bed hospital is being built to hurricane design specifications established by Miami-Dade County — some of the strictest in the country, according to David B. Kelly, senior associate with Boston architectural firm Cannon Design, which designed the building.
Building according to the Florida code will allow the hospital to withstand Hurricane Irma-strength winds of 185 mph, rather than 150 mph as specified by Massachusetts building codes, Kelly said.
“The term is resiliency,” Kelly said. “It’s survivability.”
“If we don’t have the (medical) helicopters flying or the boats running, it’s the only place to get medical care,” said Janet Schulte, who has toured the hospital currently under construction in her capacity as director of Nantucket’s Department of Culture and Tourism.
Massive 5-foot-by-5-foot concrete footings fortified by mesh, Andersen Stormwatch windows and a double-hulled exterior building shell will help the new hospital stand up to Category 5 winds, said Kelly and Dennis Patnaude, the hospital’s facilities director.
Redundancies, such as analog and digital phone lines and access to satellite phones, mean the hospital will be able to exchange information with emergency services on and off island, Patnaude said.
“You could lose all services and still have communication,” he said.The mandate to meet Miami-Dade codes came from Boston-based Partners Healthcare, of which Nantucket Cottage Hospital is a member, Kelly said.
It’s possible because the new hospital is being built from the ground up, cheek by jowl with the existing facility next door on Prospect Street, Patnaude said.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in a complete hospital replacement,” Patnaude said. “It is designed to meet or exceed all applicable codes.”