Some folks don't mind high winds

Published May 28, 2007

TAMPA - With the 2007 hurricane season on the horizon, Steve Munnell acknowledges that the state's roofing contractors are "praying for rain."

The executive director of the Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association said a slow 2006 storm season and a sluggish new home construction market have hit roofers who were gleefully busy after the string of nasty, destructive hurricanes whacked Florida in 2004 and '05.

"Everybody has said, 'We sure could use a nice tropical storm - nothing serious, ' " Munnell said. "Some rain storms, a few leaks here and there, and suddenly the roofing industry gets very busy."

So not everyone bemoaned the unprecedented string of '04 and '05 storms that tore up thousands of roofs and pool cages, dropped tree limbs on houses and cars, and created an almost hysterical clamoring for hurricane shutters, plywood, generators and bottled water.

The weather created a demand - and a fortuitous spike in activity and profits - for the people who fix roofs, cut trees, replace windows, rescreen pool cages, clean up debris and sell hurricane shutters..

Those folks will be watching the sky again as the storm season starts Friday, starting what hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University predict will be a busy six-month stretch. The forecast calls for 17 named storms - five of them major hurricanes - to form over the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and a good chance of at least one making landfall in the United States.

Suncoast Roofers Supply, one of the state's largest suppliers of roofing materials, rode the post-hurricane boom well into 2006 before demand dropped, said Bill Tamayo, owner and CEO of the Tampa-based company. He acknowledged that the industry could use a storm that would blow off some roofs - as long as nobody gets hurt.

"I hate to admit it, " he said.

Tampa Roofing Co. owner Keith Swope described a profitable but chaotic period after the '04 storms, marked by miscommunication and mismanagement as FEMA coordinated initial reroofing efforts.

Despite business being sluggish now for much of the industry, Swope said he never wants to see a repeat of the post-hurricane "feeding frenzy" in '04 that brought a legion of unlicensed contractors to the state.

"We're like undertakers - we don't work unless it rains, " Swope said. "But hurricanes aren't good for anybody. We just want normal wear and tear."

At a glance

Bad weather benefits

Not everyone dreads tropical storms. Hurricanes can mean a boost in sales for people who fix roofs, cut trees, replace windows, rescreen pool cages, clean up debris and sell hurricane shutters. Big-box retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's also benefit from the increased demand for supplies such as plywood, generators and tarps. Above, tarps given out by FEMA cover several roofs in Lake Wales in 2005, several months after Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne passed through.