Cat 6 Hurricane Simulator with 200 mph winds

MELBOURNE, Florida (AP) – The howling winds of a Category 6 hurricane accelerated astonishingly to 200 mph in Miami, ruthlessly destroying a two-story log house until the roof ripped through and crackled windows exploded.

A towering 20-foot storm surge generated devastating waves, engulfing the structure and pushing it off its foundation like a doomed doll.

It looks like a scene from a science fiction disaster movie.

But with realistic Atlantic hurricanes pushing the limits of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, Florida International University researchers envision a massive windwater simulator of the future testing how building components interact under Cat 6 conditions.



The FIU’s Institute of Extreme Events is already running a 157-mph hurricane simulator, where experimental results have been applied to Florida’s building code. Now, the school is leading the National Science Foundation’s $12.8 million partnership to design a larger national testing facility capable of generating 200-mph winds.

In devastating tandem, this Cat 6 project will include a water basin that can deliver up to 20 feet of storm surge.

“We used the 200 mph mark because there have been more and more events recently that they call being stronger than Cat 5,” said Ioannis Zisis, co-director of the FIU Laboratory for Wind Engineering Research.

“This is a very ambitious project in terms of bringing together the various risks. So we want to deal with the wind, but we also want to add the storm surge, the water component,” Zesis said.

“So it’s a very complex project, a very complex facility – it would also be very costly,” he said.

FIU’s academic partners in the project: University of Florida, Oregon State University, Stanford University, University of Notre Dame, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Colorado State University and Wayne State University. Aerolab, the Maryland wind tunnel company, is the lead industry partner.

Design work began in January on the futuristic simulator, which is technically called NICHE (National Full-Scale Test Infrastructure for Community Strengthening in High Wind, Burst and Wave Events).

Zisis said the researchers will spend the next four years designing the massive facility – and it is “crucial” that they make a series of major decisions within the first six months. More details about the construction, such as funding sources, are still unknown.

Should we create a Category 6 hurricane?

Richard Olson is director of the Extreme Events Institute at the Financial Intelligence Unit. In a 2019 FLORIDA TODAY guest column, he lobbied to create a new Category 6 hurricane—with frightening sustained wind speeds of 180 mph or higher—above the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Olson referred to historical storms such as the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane as the “Great Labor Day hurricane” (winds lasting 185 mph), Hurricane Allen in 1980 (190 mph), Hurricane Wilma in 2005 (185 mph), and Hurricane Allen in 1980. Irma in 2017 (180 mph). ) and Hurricane Dorian in 2018 (185 mph).

Opening up a discussion of at least Category 6 Atlantic Basin storms has some urgency. In his 2019 column, Olson said climate change scientists are calling for increased numbers of severe storms in the coming decades.

“This means that storms with sustained winds of 180 mph should not be considered extremely rare,” Olson said.

FEMA Administrator Dean Cresswell promoted the FIU project during the National Hurricane Center’s April 13 keynote address in Orlando.

What if we could simulate a Category 6 hurricane? Criswell asked the audience.

“This kind of cutting-edge research, this kind of testing capacity, is just what we need to tackle the evolving risks in the country. To help us adapt to future conditions. And to help us protect lives and property.”

Criswell said FEMA projects that American communities that adopt modern building codes will avoid paying $132 billion in storm damage compensation by 2040 — but 65% of counties, cities and towns have not adopted modern building codes.

Wall winds 157 mph at FIU

FIU’s wind wall is a warehouse-like facility that can create Category 5 hurricane conditions with winds of up to 157 mph. Researchers blast test structures equipped with sensors — such as simulated tiny homes, roofing materials, windows, traffic lights and solar panels — and create 3D computer models that measure wind forces.

The 8,400-horsepower wind wall is powered by dozens of yellow circular propellers, each 6 feet wide and weighing 15,000 pounds.

The water outlets also simulate consecutive rainfall amounts of 8 to 9 inches per hour.

Last year, the NSF awarded the Financial Intelligence Unit a $5.62 million grant to continue scientific research in the Wall of Wind through September 2025. However, unlike the wind wall, Zisis said the future Cat 6 hurricane simulator would be large enough to accommodate full-size homes .

“We envision placing a two-story building in front of the masses, on a turntable,” Zisis said.

“Right now we can test a smaller structure. We can test building components and solar panels and things like that. But the actual structure that we can fit in front of the wind wall is like a 10 x 10 x 10 cube,” he said.

“Over the past 30 or 40 years, most of the things we have in building code and wind tunnels have come from small-scale studies. And they are very, very useful. Very scientific, and they are very important. But when we test at scale, we learn more,” he said.

“Right now, we’re more into testing components in the wind wall because we’re constrained by size. We can’t see how the wind load is transferred from the outside of the building all the way to the foundation. This is something we imagine doing with a new facility.”

So what size should an FIU Cat 6 simulator be? The Miami New Times reported that it could be compared in size to a small soccer field, while the Washington Post reported that the wave pool might be 200 feet long.

No one knows at this early stage, Zesis said. During the $12.8 million design effort, Zsis said the researchers will design a smaller scale simulation prototype in the Financial Intelligence Unit to verify and validate their assumptions.

“The small scale replica of this huge facility would be about the same size as the wind wall, to some extent,” he said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): Anticipate extreme weather events

During her speech at the National Hurricane Conference, Cresswell said the UN Committee on Climate Sciences fears that unless global greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2025 and are reduced by 43% by 2030, the world is likely to experience extreme climate events.

“Now, is this information making us sink into our seats? Perhaps. But I encourage all of us in this room to embrace this information and not dismiss it as worrisome,” Cresswell told the audience.

“We have the best climate scientists in the world working hand in hand, country by country, to give us the best information and the best data available to help us save lives and protect property. So we need to take advantage of that data and act.”

“Let’s use it to inspire a collective shift to a future-based mindset across all levels of government and all of our communities nationwide. Let’s use it to predict, plan and mitigate risks that will be 10, 20, 30 years in the future,” she said.

Jim Bell is the Director of Operations for the National Storm Shelter Association. A former resident of Fort Lauderdale, he was president of the Gold Coast chapter of the Doors and Hardware Institute when he served on a committee that helped advance building code in Florida after Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992.

“The intriguing part is the storm surge,” Bell said of FIU’s futuristic Cat 6 simulator.

“When we talk about the wind speeds they look at, you’re going to have to do more with the windows and doors and the like. Because once the wind gets inside the building, it compresses the building — and that makes the roof pop or the windows pop,” Bell said.

“As the pressure builds, you look for another place to get out. That’s what causes the damage, the explosive effect,” he said.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Structural damage details of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, according to the National Hurricane Center:

Class 1: 74 to 95 mph. “Well-built homes can damage roofing, shingles, vinyl siding, and gutters. Large tree branches will break and trees with shallow roots may be brought down. Severe damage to power lines and poles is likely to lead to power outages that could last from a few days.” to several days.”

Class 2: 96 to 110 mph. “Well-built homes can withstand large roofs and collateral damage. Many shallow rooted trees will be cut down or uprooted and many roads blocked. Almost total energy loss is expected with outages that may last from several days to weeks.”

Class 3: 111 to 129 mph. “Well-constructed framed homes may have major damage or the roofing and gable ends removed. Many trees will be cut down or uprooted, causing many roads to be closed. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm has passed.”

Class 4: 130 to 156 mph. “Well-constructed framed homes can suffer severe damage with most of the roof structure and/or some external walls lost. Most trees will be cut down or uprooted and electricity poles fall. Fallen trees and electricity poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last from weeks to months. Potential. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Class 5: 157 mph or higher. A high percentage of framed homes would be destroyed, with complete roofs and walls collapsing. Fallen trees and electricity poles will isolate residential areas. The power outages will last for weeks, maybe months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

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