Many of us living in the northeast coastal region of the United States have not considered the consequences of the potential wind field associated with a hurricane making land fall at any point along our coastline, and consequently, the homeowner’s insurance necessary to withstand those loses. Risk of damages is proportional to the size of the wind field. A wind field is the term used to describe wind speed and direction over a geographic area associated with a storm event.
The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 provides a sobering example of how far inland hurricane force winds can be experienced. This category 3 hurricane had a very fast forward speed, estimated to have been 70mph, as it approached Long Island, NY from the southeast. Interestingly, the storm became a hybrid storm as it made landfall. It had begun to transition from a tropical storm into an extra-tropical event.
Extra-tropical transition marks a change of the cyclones primary energy source from the release of latent heat of condensation, to baroclinic processes associated with the boundary between air masses of different temperatures. The storm was drawing energy from 2 sources.
During extra-tropical transition, a storm may tap into both energy sources simultaneously which explains why tropical cyclones can sustain their strength above colder water. Extra-tropical storms generally have a larger footprint and their characteristic high forward speeds mean that the most damaging wind speeds are more pronounced to the right hand side of the track.
Could a Katrina type storm happen here in New England? Damage across NY, RI, CT, MA, and farther north into NH, VT and ME was comparable to that experienced in Louisiana and Mississippi in the main foot print of hurricane Katrina in 2005. If such a storm were to repeat this path today, it is estimated that insured losses could reach 40-55 billion dollars, and hundreds of millions in homeowner’s insurance deductibles.
High wind pressure acting on a structure can be catastrophic. Building failures occur when the protective envelope of the building is breached. The most vulnerable areas of your home are the glass areas which, for the most part, are not designed to withstand severe wind pressures or the impact of air borne debris. This is why shuttering your windows and doors is an essential protective measure.
Recovering from storm damage can be a costly hassle for property owners. This scenario can be avoided by taking steps to install weather protection measures which could have the added effect of saving you money on insurance premiums and expensive wind deductibles. Some product solutions also have further benefits such as energy conservation, filtering of UV light entering your home, enhanced perimeter security, noise abatement, and potential homeowner’s insurance discounts.