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Mark D. Powell and Timothy A. Reinhold

Tropical cyclone damage potential, as currently defined by the Saffir-Simpson scale and the maximum sustained surface wind speed in the storm, fails to consider the area impact of winds likely to force surge and waves or cause particular levels of damage. Integrated kinetic energy represents a framework that captures the physical process of ocean surface stress forcing waves and surge while also taking into account structural wind loading and the spatial coverage of the wind. Integrated kinetic energy was computed from gridded, objectively analyzed surface wind fields of 23 hurricanes representing large and small storms. A wind destructive potential rating was constructed by weighting wind speed threshold contributions to the integrated kinetic energy, based on observed damage in Hurricanes Andrew, Hugo, and Opal. A combined storm surge and wave destructive potential rating was assigned according to the integrated kinetic energy contributed by winds greater than tropical storm force. The ratings are based on the familiar 1–5 range, with continuous fits to allow for storms as weak as 0.1 or as strong as 5.99.

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Mark D. Powell, Samuel H. Houston, and Timothy A. Reinhold


Hurricane Andrew's landfall in south Florida left a swath of destruction, including many failed anemometer recording systems. Extreme destruction led to exaggerated claims of the range of wind speed that caused such damage. The authors accumulated all available data from surface platforms at heights ranging from 2 to 60 m and reconnaissance aircraft at altitudes near 3 km. Several procedures were used to represent the various types of wind measurements in a common framework for exposure, measurement height, and averaging period. This set of procedures allowed documentation of Andrew's winds in a manner understandable to both meteorologists and wind engineers. The procedures are accurate to ±10% for marine and land observing platforms, and boundary layer model adjustments of flight-level winds to the surface compare to within 20% of the nearest surface measurements. Failure to implement the adjustment procedures may lead to errors of 15%–40%. Quality control of the data is discussed, including treatment of peak wind observations and determination of the radius of maximum winds at the surface.

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