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UL’s Storm Expert Talks Superstorm Sandy

October 7, 2015

Looking on Google Maps, Ocean Street, Lindenhurst, N.Y. contains some things a normal neighborhood would not. Empty lots line the streets next to homes with extensive repairs. Dumpsters look like a permanent resident every few blocks alongside scattered debris.

These street view images were taken January 2013, just three months after Hurricane Sandy swept through the ocean-side neighborhood.

"Five of my neighbors needed to board up their homes after the storm — four rebuilt from scratch," explains Wayne Breighner, UL's disaster expert, who was living in Lindenhurst during that time.

Unfortunately, three years later, not much has changed. The New York Times reports that homes in this area are between "20 percent and 30 percent of what the properties were worth before Hurricane Sandy."

When Wayne moved to New York, he remembers thinking, "if any hurricane passes through this town, it will be a major problem," as many of the homes were not built to protect against a natural disaster.

Luckily for Wayne and his family, this was not the case. As an architectural expert, Wayne inspected his home before moving in to ensure it was built to proper building codes that help ensure safety in hurricane regions. His home was built on stilts with the proper materials to better prevent flooding. Before the hurricane, he took extra safety precautions by sealing the joints in his windows and doors and placing sandbags around his property.

Wayne's home not only protected his family against Hurricane Sandy, but also suffered minimal water damage.  It was the only home that stood its ground for blocks. Storm surge reached above the neighborhood's front doors, flooding entryways by 3 – 4 ft.

“Two homes along the bay had been sliced in half like a cake,” Wayne recalled. “You could see right through them, from the front to the back. Not an ounce of water penetrated our home because it was constructed to recommended building codes.”

Hurricane Sandy left Wayne with a greater resolve to understand how a building will serve as a place of refuge during hurricanes and tornadoes.

Wayne launched UL’s natural disaster testing program to help ensure a home or building is able to withstand high winds, water, fluctuating pressure and extreme temperatures. He tests the durability of windows, doors, walls and roofing materials by simulating hurricanes and other natural disasters. By doing so, Wayne helps make the world, including his New York neighbors, safe.

“No one should have to go through what our friends and neighbors went through, and are still experiencing today,” Wayne said. “I want to make a difference — and I get to do that every day at UL.”

For more information about UL's natural disaster testing and services, visit UL's Industry Pages.