(WTNH) – The start of spring is just nine days away, which means hurricane season isn’t too far off. Hurricanes have become more intense, so how do we prepare for a storm with winds over 170, 180, or even 200 miles per hour?
The Extreme Events Institute at Florida International University will be building a prototype to prepare for what’s to come. The past two years have been quite active in New England. Connecticut is no stranger to tropical storms or the occasional Category 1 or 2 hurricanes, but because of our cooler waters, it’s quite rare that we see major hurricanes, which means winds higher than 111 MPH.
Category 5 hurricanes are rare, but with the Atlantic and Caribbean waters trending warmer, we have seen stronger storms over the past decade.
Recently, FIU received a grant of $12.8 million from the National Science Foundation. This grant will be used to design and prototype a future full-scale testing facility, capable of wind speeds up to 200 MPH, combined with a water basin to simulate storm surge and wave action.
“The purpose of research and testing is to get ahead of the damage curve. Testing on past events is not as useful as what we are trying to do, which is to simulate events that will be coming in the next 10, 20, 30 years,” said Dr. Richard Olson.
Dr. Richard Olson is the Director of Extreme Events Research at FIU. He wants the public to prepare for more intense storms in the future.
“I watched Hurricane Patricia off the West coast of Mexico in 2015 hit 214 miles per hour. I just couldn’t get the words. I kept saying, ‘we’re still calling this a Cat 5?’ And then in 2019, just over the Bahamas, I saw Hurricane Dorian hitting 185 [miles per hour]. I know we’re not supposed to think of storms as ‘beings,’ but that was an animal to me and it felt different,” Dr. Olson said.
Preparing means making sure infrastructure can withstand stronger winds coupled with higher storm surges.
“I don’t want anyone to be facing a question in twenty years from somebody saying, ‘you knew about this, you knew this was likely coming, and you didn’t have a research and testing facility for infrastructure for homes, for electrical systems, grids,’” Dr. Olson said.
While we can look back at past storms, it’s more important to look ahead to future storms and the potential for stronger winds and catastrophic flooding. Dr. Olson argues that maybe there needs to be a supplemental scale or even a 6th category added to the Saffir-Simpson scale so the public can come to grips on the stronger storms.