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Making Homes Hurricane-Resistant

The Early Show "Traveler Beware" series, consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen shows what happened when she booked one of these trips
CBS/The Early Show
Some estimates put Hurricane Katrina's toll in the $26 billion range in insured losses alone.

That would make it more costly than the record-setting Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which caused an inflation-adjusted $21 billion in losses.

Millions of people along the Gulf coast have been displaced by Katrina, whose furious winds literally ripped homes right off their foundations, and whose floodwaters inundated countless others.

But, as The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen reports, some insurers are trying to create stronger, tougher, hurricane-resistant homes to cut down on that type of destruction in the future.

Engineers for one such carrier, Johnston, R.I.-based FM Global, are recreating hurricane scenarios in the company's lab, trying to come up with materials to use on homes to help them withstand the wrath of hurricanes.

FM Global's Mike Burke says most people think hurricane damage isn't preventable but, "We don't think that's the case."

Koeppen saw demonstrations of some of the materials in use.

It doesn't take a lot of wind to destroy a home, she learned watching a simulation of gravel hitting a window at 40 mph. The window shattered. Then she saw the same simulator used on a window with a glazing. The window is damaged, but doesn't shatter. That's significant, because it could keep rainwater from getting into homes and destroying them.

Many people put up plywood on windows before a storm moves in, which is a good idea, Koeppen says. But make sure you put up enough. One ½-inch sheet doesn't keep out all debris. Koeppen saw a test where a 2-by-4 is shot at the plywood and goes right through it. When the plywood is doubled-up, the 2-by-4 bounces off in the test. That's important for the rain aspect as well: A smashed piece of plywood will let in all the water.

Koeppen also saw a test of wind on a roof. At 30 to 60 mph, the shingles were already lifting off. At 120 mph, they were almost half gone. At 150 mph, they were pretty much all gone. That means water would get into the roof and leak down into the house.

"Shingles are there entirely for water damage," Burke says. "That's their only function and, once their gone, water is coming into the building. There's going to be an awful lot of damage."

Whether it's safer windows or stronger roofs, says Burke, "Ideally, you'd like to get a hurricane warning and say, 'So what?' And that's possible."

Insurance experts point out that these types of changes don't have to cost much.

Using more nails, screws and clips to keep your home in place and keep your roof on could make a big difference.

Special windows with coating are also relatively inexpensive.

Water does a lot of damage. If windows crack, it's no big deal. But if they shatter, you have to replace the window and everything in that room because the water was able to rush in and destroy things.

That also applies when a roof leaks.