Loss Of Herb Saffir – A Pioneer In Communicating Hurricane Risk To The Public and Policymakers

As many of you have read in the news, Herb Saffir has died (see). Herb Saffir, along with Robert H. Simpson, is a developer of the famous categories 1 through 5 of hurricane intensity.

As a tribute to his continual contribution to engineering and science throughout a long lifetime, I am posting below a guest weblog that he permitted us to post earlier this year. He will be missed.

Comments by Herbert S. Saffir on Hurricane Katrina [originally posted February 13 2007]

Herbert S. Saffir is recognized internationally as one of the most outstanding experts on the relationship of property damage due to hurricanes. His expertise was used to create the well-known Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.

With his permission, I have reproduced a summary of his conclusions on the intensity of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“Discussion by Herbert S. Saffir, P.E., Hon. M.ASCE of ‘Performance of Glass/Cladding of High Rise-Buildings in Hurricane Katrina’ by Ahsan Kareem and Rachel Bashor, University of Notre Dame.

The ‘Performance of Glass/Cladding of High Rise-Buildings in Hurricane Katrina’, Wind Engineering, December 2006, is a valuable commentary on the destruction of glass and cladding on high-rise buildings in New Orleans during the hurricane.

In the opinion of this writer, Hurricane Katrina was not a major hurricane event for New Orleans. The central eye of Katrina made landfall in Mississippi, approximately 30 miles east of the center of the New Orleans business district. New Orleans was in the weak quadrant of the storm. It is interesting to note that the paper confirms that wind speeds were only about 90 miles per hour, in 3 second gusts, in Katrina, in New Orleans; these speeds are well below the design speeds of 118 mph given in ANSI A58.1 (1982) and the design speeds of 130 mph, 3 second gust, given in ASCE 7-05 (2005).

The writer believes that much of the damage in New Orleans was similar to high-rise building damage in Hurricane Alicia in Houston (1983), where winds were probable not over 90 mph.

The writer also believes there was insufficient attention to design and installation of cladding and glass, and poor code enforcement, in New Orleans. Unfortunately, this paper does not review the building code requirements in force for glass and cladding; it does not review and analyze the individual design plans for those structures in New Orleans damaged by Katrina.�

This summary is valuable and sobering as it further reinforces the view that New Orleans, despite all of the damage that occurred with the failure of the levees, has not yet seen its worst case hurricane landfall.

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