Gather a home owner from our nation's Midwest and a sunbird from Florida and eventually their talk will turn to the weather. The focus of this discussion often reverts to the classic debate on which disaster is worse: hurricanes or tornados?

Variety is the spice of life, says the Midwesterner. The four season cycle creates a sense of time passing. So despite the problems associated with some of the extremes a season may usher in, such as blizzards, floods, and tornados, the flatlanders find assurance in their cyclical weather patterns.

They claim these weather extremes are livable, not life threatening problems. Midwesterners also cite the low frequency of tornados and thus the reduced odds of a direct hit at a specific site.

Sunbirds retort that they are happy to live in a land of consistency. A two-season lifestyle brings predictability. It's a paradise to leave these extremes behind. But they admit that the price they need to pay for this lifestyle is the occasional tropical storm, such as Fay that hit the southern part of the state in mid-August.

They note that modern weather forecasting equipment provides ample warnings well in advance of any storm's landfall. Since forewarned is forearmed, these coastal residents believe they're provided adequate time to prepare for the potential damaging forces, withdraw to a safer place, and plan for the eventual return to normalcy.

What coastal residents often fail to mention is that when a hurricane does approach, they are exposed to Mother Nature's double whammy. While ready for the forecasted hurricane's path, many a home has been lost to the random and often disastrous effects created by the unpredictable tornados and torrential rains that often accompany the storm.

For the Florida masonry industry, the current residential slowdown has hit the sunshine state with a similar one-two punch. Currently the masonry industry is feeling the impact from the overall effect of the mega-force economic hurricane that has encompassed the entire housing market.

Once considered the poster child for the potential of residential masonry construction, Florida has suffered more than any single market from the national slowdown in this area. Masons, block producers, and cement suppliers have all been devastated by the decimation of the market that built masonry.

Storm warnings

Economists have described the housing crisis as the perfect storm. Loan failures, foreclosures, tightening credit, economic slowdown, and decline in consumer confidence have set the stage for a long recovery in residential construction.

But this series of problems describes the recent now. Prior to the hurricane-like storm, the Florida masonry market was hit by a bevy of tornados of housing declines that should have forewarned the greater storm.