Sandy was Not a Major Hurricane

One commenter asked about “major hurricanes” and why Sandy isn’t one.  The term “major hurricane” is used by many to indicate those of Category 3 and up. It is used by the U.S. National Hurricane Center, which classifies hurricanes of Category 3 and above as major hurricanes, and is generally used everywhere from the weather agencies to Wikipedia.

Here’s the Saffir-Simpson scale, which includes a nice animation illustrating the typical effects of the different wind speeds. Note the use of “major” for Cat 3 and above.

For a Category 1 hurricane, which Sandy was (off-and-on) until about the time of landfall when it began to dissipate again, the scale notes that “Very dangerous winds will produce some damage.” Electric power is sensitive: “Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.”

Indeed. The power lines and poles are above ground in the US for the most part, and the humorous and inciteful[1] Mark Steyn makes a number of brilliant observations about this.  He’s just published another piece, noting that the 2009 report (in PDF) on New York’s vulnerabilities show that Sandy was not a “freakish” “monster” “Frankenstorm” but simply an anticipated storm that did the damage they knew it would, if steps weren’t taken.  In fact, the storm surge of Sandy was expected to be dwarfed by even a Category 2 hurricane (16 feet) and a Category 4 was expected to deliver a surge to New York City of more than 30 feet (about 10 meters), or more than twice what Sandy produced.

Storm size due to BS

Beside the much larger storm surge, the wind damage from a major hurricane would be far more severe than that from Sandy.  For a major hurricane, such as what has hit New York in the past (as in here, here and here), they expect “A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Of course, the damage to homes did not occur as described, as Sandy’s winds were modest by comparison. But the “Bloomberg Style” effect amplified Sandy into a “power outages will last for weeks” storm — in other words, the idea that Sandy is a major storm is due to BS.

Bloomberg, despite this 2009 document describing what Sandy would likely do, took no steps to protect from the storm surge, finding it “difficult to translate such warnings into concrete action.” As Steyn noted:

“A flood barrier is too prosaically municipal for a man of Bloomberg’s grand vision. ‘Saving the planet’ is a whole lot easier than saving Staten Island.”

Bloomberg, of course, is full of it. Concrete action, that is. There seems to be no big-government nanny-state issue that cannot command his attention, from trans fats to salt to sugar to portion limits and drink sizes.  (He makes exception for these things, of course, for his own purposes — and his own donors.)  In his mind, saving the planet requires that you and I change our own behaviors. It did not motivate him, apparently, to change his own and to actually do something about the threat.  It would have been union labor, too — since it is union labor that has multiplied the cost of building roads and even flood walls into the billions.

And this was for a hurricane that was expected, sooner or later, even without catastrophic global warming.

Though major hurricanes are relatively rare these days, minor ones are common enough as I noted Friday.  Some preparation makes sense, and when you’re notified that a hurricane is on the way, it is far too late to build flood barriers and move powerlines underground.

The Effects of Higher Winds

Incidentally, the reason that higher winds would be much worse than Sandy has to do with the relationship between wind speed and resulting force.  This calculator shows the effect, which is four times the force for two times the wind speed.  Thus, a 150MPH hurricane like Donna of 1960 has four times the wind-damaging power of a 75MPH one like Sandy.For example, the side force on a one-foot-square structure two stories up is about 27PSI in a 75MPH wind, but more than 108PSI in a 150MPH wind.

Here are three snapshots from the COMET animation on the NOAA site for comparison:

Notice, in particular, the debris in the air in the major hurricanes. Floridians didn’t call it a real wind unless it had chunks — and those were a serious danger.

In the Category 3, the home is badly damaged (and in the Cat 5 it’s scraped clean): What would that sort of hurricane — a real, major hurricane which hits the Northeast from time to time — have done to Mayor Bloomberg’s unprepared, union-blockaded city?

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Yes, I know there is a word called “insightful,” which Steyn qualifies for as well. But he’s recently incited a lawsuit from a global warming fraudster, which is its own amusing story.