S94 Developing a hurricane damage index

Sunday, 23 January 2011
Sandra N. Maina, UCAR, Melbourne, FL; and J. M. Done

Accurate information on damage caused by landfalling hurricanes benefit decision making and response of groups such as emergency managers and insurance companies. Estimates of potential damage made in advance of landfall using readily available storm information would provide useful guidance for preparations and rapid response. Currently, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale serves as the main tool to assess a storm's potential damage and uses solely the storm's maximum wind speed. This scale is effective in communicating to the public a storm's strength; however, it does not accurately measure a hurricane's potential damage. The purpose of this work was to develop a hurricane damage index based on physical properties of the storm. Through examination of previous indices, our methods in creating the Maina Hurricane Index (MHI) involved identifying and verifying the statistical relevance of several hurricane parameters by analyzing data from 13 historical storms. The index also incorporated the amount of human development, indicated by the number of housing units of an affected area, to account for coastal variability. Results showed that the best predictors for potential damage were the minimum central pressure and size of the storm defined by the radius of hurricane force winds. In comparison to five other existing hurricane indices, the MHI had the best correlation with damage for the 13 storms used in this study and also performed well in tests on an independent dataset of US landfalling storms of 2008. The MHI will be used to provide useful damage forecasts during the 2010 Hurricane season.
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