A recent article in the Houston Chronicle noted support by some scientists to replace the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with other more accurate measures of hurricane destructiveness. It is about time.
I have long questioned the accuracy of Saffir-Simpson. I have seen structures in a high wind event, such as Hurricane Charley, with little or no damage. I have also represented a large multi-story condominium in Destin that’s roof was blown half-way off by Tropical Storm Dennis. The scale was not close to destruction prediction in either case.
The bottom line is that generalizing damage under a wind scale does not individually correlate to the actual destruction of buildings. The Saffir-Simpson Scale is, at best, an estimated prediction in a broadly general sense, rather than a bonafide measuring system of expected damage.
One recurrent problem in the insurance claims business is that insurance industry engineers use the Saffir-Simpson Scale to explain wind damage causation issues. As previously stated, my experience regarding how any one structure may withstand strong winds varies greatly. If the roof opened or bricks fell off a wall during a category one hurricane, engineers for the insurance company use the Saffir-Simpson to explain that it could not have been caused by the hurricane.
Another significant problem is one of safety. Bolivar Peninsula residents think Hurricane Ike was the storm of the century. Saffir-Simpson does not even rate Hurricane Ike a major storm. This shows how inaccurate a measuring devise Saffir-Simpson is. Ike should have been rated a Category 5 for Boilvar so people would know that it posed a catastrophic risk to them.
If there is going to be a discussion about a new measuring system for the destructiveness of a hurricane, my personal view is that one is greatly needed.