By: Brian R. GaudetGiven the numerous storms which appear to be set on making landfall in the United States, most prominently category four Hurricane Florence heading toward the East Coast, it makes sense to take a quick look at what contractors need to be concerned about when threatened with an impending storm. From a personal injury/property damage perspective, all contractors need to anticipate an approaching storm and make reasonable efforts to secure the project site and their people. After the storm has started, in the case of one that sticks around for a while, like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, or after it has finished, contractors need to be mindful of any contract terms governing force majeure events and delays and be prepared to comply with those terms. Many contracts require notice within a certain period of time when the contractor knows of circumstances that may result in a delay. Some contracts may have a short period of time in which to provide the applicable notice. In the case of Hurricane Harvey, a 48 hour notice period would have run its course before Hurricane Harvey was half done running its course. While it may be obvious to some that a construction project will be impacted by a hurricane moving through an area, the extent of the impacts to the project may not be readily apparent. Also, contractors must not overlook that a hurricane occurring in another part of the country could impact their project if one of the suppliers has a critical component or long lead time item in a warehouse in the storm’s path. In the event that a contractor is entitled to additional time or compensation as a result of a severe weather event, it usually requires that the contractor demonstrate that they have mitigated the effects of the storm (for both cost and time) as well as produce detailed documentation to prove up the effect. As these storms approach, contractors should take the time to understand their current contractual commitments and what it takes to get relief and plan accordingly in addition to their other pre-storm planning.
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