A well-built modern home can stand up against high winds. Even a hurricane wouldn't ordinarily blow down a code-compliant new house these days (although a tornado might).
But older buildings that pre-date modern codes are more vulnerable to the wind — especially if they haven't been properly maintained. Last month the news brought ample evidence of this fact, as storm winds that fell far short of hurricane or tornado strength nevertheless did major damage to old, dilapidated structures in some coastal states.
In Queens, New York, a family had to move out of their newly rebuilt home when the abandoned house next door blew over. The Daily News has the story (see: "Queens family forced out of home by Hurricane Sandy must leave again after building next door collapses," by Ross Keith and John Annese). "They left their damaged Queens home for months because of Hurricane Sandy, then rebuilt it — and now they have to leave again," the paper reported. "Heavy winds Sunday sent a gutted house collapsing into the home of Judith Carroll and her family. Now they’ll have to wait 24 hours before the city can lift a brick to help them — unless the vacant home’s owner steps in." Said homeowner Carroll: “Any second this thing could come down and take out my home. It’s very scary."
A 12-story mixed-use structure under construction in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood also took a hit from the weekend winds, reported the Park Slope Patch (see: "Park Slope Building That Collapsed in High Winds Had 'Stop Work Order'," by Simone Wilson). "The slow-going construction on a 12-story, mixed-use building rising at 535 4th Ave. near 14th Street in Park Slope was set back even further Sunday morning, when a huge chunk of the top story collapsed in the day's insane, 30 to 60 mph winds," Patch reported. Work on the site had been suspended because of violations found by city inspectors, Patch added, including a "first floor shear failure at column transfer."
And in Baltimore, Maryland, high winds damaged several unoccupied row houses, according to the Baltimore Brew (see: "Strong winds topple West Baltimore vacants," by Fern Shen). "In Baltimore, the heavy winds were taking vacants down patricularly in West Baltimore," the Brew reported. "In addition to the houses on North Payson, another rowhouse collapsed nearby at 1701 North Fulton Avenue, at the intersection with Presbury Street. There were also reports of a collapsed building at Mosher and Vinson Street and another near North Fremont and Riggs Street that damaged several cars." City authorities conducted emergency demolitions of some structures, and were keeping an eye on several other damaged buildings in case action might be required.