Weather456's Tropical Weather Blog

Herbert Saffir Dies at Age 90

By: Weather456, 8:16 PM GMT on November 23, 2007

MIAMI (Reuters) - Herbert Saffir, co-creator of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, has died in Miami. He was 90 years old and a structural engineer by profession.



The Miami Herald quoted Saffir's son, Richard, as saying he died of a heart attack on Wednesday night at South Miami Hospital.

Originally from New York, Saffir began developing the five-category hurricane scale in the late 1960s and worked on it with Robert Simpson, then director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Their system for rating the destructive potential of hurricanes on the basis of wind speeds and storm surge moved into common usage in the mid-1970s.

Hurricanes shot into the broader U.S. public consciousness in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans and killed around 1,500 people on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The five-step scale is now often used in short form, with Category 1 storms being the weakest and Category 5 storms the most dangerous. Storms of Category 3 and higher are called "major" hurricanes.

Hurricanes are known as typhoons in the Northwest Pacific west of the dateline and as cyclones in the Southwest Pacific and Indian Ocean. Tropical storms become hurricanes when their top sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour (119 km per hour).

(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Michael Christie and Vicki Allen)


Figure 1. Saffir Simpson Hurricane Intensity Scale

Herbert Saffir

Herbert Saffir (29 March 1917 – 21 November 2007), is the developer of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, for measuring the intensity of hurricanes. As recently as 2005, Saffir was the principal of Saffir Engineering in Coral Gables, Florida. He has published articles on designing buildings for high wind resistance.

Saffir graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1940 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. Saffir worked for Dade County, Florida beginning in 1947 as an assistant county engineer, and worked on updating the county building code. In 1969, while working on a study of windstorm damage on low-cost housing commissioned by the United Nations, Saffir developed a scale to measure the intensity of hurricanes. Robert Simpson, then-director of the National Hurricane Center, added information on the damage done by storm surge, resulting in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Saffir survived the sinking of the SS Morro Castle ship on September 8, 1934, en route from Havana to New York when the ship caught fire and burned, killing a total of 137 passengers and crew members. He floated for nearly five hours before being rescued, according to his account related to friends.

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Q&A with Herbert Saffir
Saffir helped develop the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale

By Ann Carter
Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board Member
June 24 2001

HERBERT S. SAFFIR: Born in New York City in 1917. Married to Sarah Young since 1941. Two grown children. Graduated Georgia Tech in 1940 with a B.S. in civil engineering. Came to what was then Dade County, Fla., in 1947 to be assistant county engineer. Set up his own consulting firm in Coral Gables, Fla., in 1959. In 1969, the United Nations commissioned a study of windstorm damage on low-cost housing, leading Saffir to develop a scale to measure hurricanes. Robert Simpson, then-director of the National Hurricane Center, added in the damage done by storm surge, resulting in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. At age 83, Saffir maintains an engineering office in Coral Gables, Fla.

Q. As a structural engineer, how did you decide to investigate windstorms -- as opposed to earthquakes or some other natural phenomenon?

A. It started when I came down here (in 1947) as assistant county engineer for what was Dade County then. I had responsibility for doing some of the engineering for the building code at that time. The building code was really not up to the state of the art as it should be, and I worked on it. Of course, one of the facts of life down here is hurricanes.

The building code is the place where the planning for hurricanes really takes place. It doesn't come into the Red Cross publication about bringing your garbage cans in and that type of stuff, the lawn furniture. But the fundamental basis for starting to plan for hurricanes is in the building code. It sets forth the rules and standards and the types of methods of structures to use for resisting windstorm. So that was my first involvement in building codes and hurricane-resistant structures.

Most of the building code work was pushed along by hurricanes in 1926. There was no type of building code that was of any value down here. The devastation was tremendous. In fact, by present-day dollars, the 1926 storm was much worse than Hurricane Andrew.

Each hurricane that came in was an impetus for revising and making the building codes better. In 1960, Donna came up the coast and that was the first time we set up requirements in the building code (for) things like windows, glass, sliding glass doors, that type of thing. Each time a hurricane came in, there were new things that showed up. Just like happened with Andrew -- that showed up a lot of deficiencies.

One of the important things about building codes is that architects and engineers, who are the professionals in the building industry, don't really set up their own criteria for every building they design. They set up, obviously, space requirements and things like that. But the structural engineering requirements for stresses, for wind loadings, for types of floor loadings and roof loadings are all set up in the building code. So the building code is extremely important because it actually does most of the design, especially for one-story residences.

The way I got into the hurricane scale, is back in the '70s I had a commission from the United Nations, of all people. They wanted a study on low-cost housing throughout the world that was subject to tropical cyclones, hurricanes. They're the same in India and Australia and Japan and Korea and South Florida, even though they all have different names. And that's when I got into setting forth rules for buildings, small buildings, residential buildings, and I also set up the hurricane scale because there was no scale that corresponded to the earthquake scales. The scale that I set up was based on the possible structural damage that you could have from each category of storm going from 75 mph, which was the minimum type of storm, up to 155 mph. I gave the scale to the National Hurricane Center for their use. Bob Simpson, who was the director of the hurricane center at the time, added a possible tidal surge, storm surge, possible flooding for each category.

Now the emergency management people tell me they don't know how they got along without the scale. They use it as far as Australia, in modified shape.

Q. Recently they've been trying to create a statewide building code. There were protests, saying South Florida is the only part of the state that needs a stricter code. Do you feel that's true?

A. No, absolutely not. You can have hurricanes strike on the West [Gulf] Coast, you can have them strike as far north as Panama City, Pensacola. In fact, one of the worst hurricanes that we investigated was Eloise that hit back in [1975]. You can have them anywhere in the state.

However, I think that South Florida, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Monroe County do have the greatest expectation, the greatest probability of having storms. I was a consultant on the big Vertical Assembly Building [where the Saturn V rockets for the Apollo project were put together]. I set up a design storm for that structure, 130 mph at the base, with increases as you went up in height. Yet they've been untouched. That was a case of an area like that not being hit head-on by a storm, when a structure was designed [for it]. You might say it was a waste of money; then again, next year, you might have [a storm].

Q. One of the arguments made during the debate over a statewide building code was that the cost of housing would increase to the point where the average middle-class wage-earner wouldn't be able to afford a home. Will it?

A. Whenever you adopt tougher standards, you're going to increase the cost of construction. There's no getting away from that. You can design for a nuclear blast. You could have designed the federal building in Oklahoma City to resist the bomb blast if you had wanted to put the money into it. We made estimates here in Miami-Dade County, and our pretty detailed estimates for one- and two-story residences showed you would increase [the cost] by about 5 percent. So we accepted it, you would have to live with that.

But it's not going to go to some of the figures that I saw in the papers; different quotations had figures as high as 25 percent. You have to have a shelter, and most of the cost of the building is really not in the structure anyway; it's in the finishing, plumbing, electrical, that type of thing.

Q. One of the weaknesses that was exposed by Andrew was that there was a code that wasn't being followed.

A. Absolutely. It wasn't being followed.

Andrew was a storm that exceeded the design storm that we used. In fact, it still exceeds the design storm that we use and that the state building code would use. We really aren't taking care of every possible eventuality.

There was a long period of complacency. Also, to a builder, to a contractor, time is money. They're always in a rush to get a job finished.

Q. Because there's such a variation in a storm's strength, does that contribute to the attitude that there's nothing to worry about?

A. People who lived in Miami when Andrew came through the Homestead area probably felt they had been through a bad storm. They may have had winds of even as high as 100 mph. As the wind increases, the force of the wind goes up geometrically, as a square of the increase. So you can see, if you double the wind velocity, you're going to get four times as much force blowing on the house.

We're eventually going to have a worse situation than Andrew. There's no getting away from it. We're going to have a storm that strikes Lauderdale, for instance, just south of the downtown area, with the bulk of the wind maximizing right in the downtown area. Or the same thing with Miami. It's going to happen sooner or later. Maybe not for 50 more years, but we will get a storm like that.

Q. How do you feel about evacuating people out of their homes as a storm approaches?

A. If you're in an area of tidal surge, or possible tidal surge -- like in Miami, most of the area east of U.S. 1 is in an area of tidal surge -- you should evacuate. The problem is that in a Category 1 or Category 2 storm, there's no need to evacuate even the beach area, in Miami-Dade County or Broward County. In a Category 1 or 2 storm, you probably won't have any kind of real flooding there, so if you do evacuate, you're going to have a job getting people out. In fact, you're not going to get 'em out with [these storms]. They're not going to leave.

Q. Your scale was designed to deal with wind and storm surge. Do you feel that the amount of rain being unleashed by a storm should be considered as a damage factor?

A. Certainly you want to know about the amount of rain that a storm is going to have, but it's difficult to really categorize it as far as different velocities go and as far as tidal surge goes. Tidal surge basically is the wind blowing up the water, although the astronomic tide and the lowering of pressure have something to do with it also. The weather service does attempt, and I think they do the best they can, to advise that rainfall is coming with any type of storm, whether it's a hurricane or any type of storm. Flooding is possible. Of course, the local area is what decides if you're going to have flooding or not. [After a hurricane in 1948], everything west of Red Road looked like Biscayne Bay. It was completely under water. Now, of course, we're building on types of marginal land. The Tamiami Canal, where I used to take my kid fishing, it's got housing developments all the way out there. And those people are asking for flood relief. They're in a bad position in a certain type of storm.

Q. Do you think the technology to see the storm approaching affects our tendency to be complacent?

A. In some ways, it's dangerous because the technology isn't always correct. They use eight or nine different computer models, and they all give relatively different answers and some of the answers are really at variance with each other. It's a little dangerous. I wouldn't really want to depend on any kind of action to take based on those computer models. I mean, I'm not gonna sit there and say that because a computer model shows it's gonna turn north, it's absolutely not gonna hit Miami. You can't depend on that. Even Allison came up and turned east.

They have got it down to a little better in some cases, but I wouldn't absolutely put my life on a probability forecast like that. Too many variables, too many chaotic conditions that maybe don't even go into the computer model. I think in some of the forecasts, they can tell better than some of the others, like Mitch.

Q. What two or three things would you suggest are the most important for people to invest in to protect their homes and their families?

A. They should certainly keep up with the situation that occurs and they should have plenty of battery radios in their house and they should have a weather radio. They should have some knowledge of what can happen. They should be prepared to some extent to know that they can have flooding. Florida, you know, is a menace to navigation. I mean, the whole thing is low.

I think that one of the main things is they have to avoid complacency and understand that these hurricanes are a fact of life. The only thing we can be sure of is that we are going to have future hurricanes. I don't mean they have to run scared or anything like that from June 1 to Nov. 30, but they should be aware of what can happen and govern themselves accordingly.

Reprinted from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Happy thanksgiving to all! May God Bless!

By: Weather456, 11:19 AM GMT on November 22, 2007

Have happy thanksgiving to all!

Typhoon Preparations

Vietnam and the Philippines prepare for further flooding.

Vietnam and the Philippines have begun to make preparations for further flooding as two tropical storms head their way.

Tropical Storm Hagibis is the 23rd storm of the Pacific typhoon season and currently lies in the South China Sea having already hit the central and southern Philippines this week. It brought torrential rain and triggered flooding and landslides before moving back out to sea.

Hagibis is now en route for southern Vietnam and is expected to make landfall later in the week. Vietnam has already suffered badly over the last two months from severe flooding. At least 67 people died from floods and landslides caused by Typhoon Lekima, which struck Vietnam last month with winds of 75mph (120km/h). The government of Vietnam has asked nearby countries to offer shelter to thousands of its fisherman as the storm approaches. It could pose a major threat to Southern Vietnam, a region rarely struck by typhoons or tropical storms.

Meanwhile east of the Philippines another storm comes hot on its tail. Tropical Storm Mitag is the 24th storm to form and the third this month to threaten the Philippines. It is forecast to strengthen to a typhoon as it approaches the coast of Luzon on Saturday.

The Philippine President has ordered evacuations in readiness for Mitag, 200,000 people from the province of Albay alone. In the Philippines, seven people died and 600,000 were left without electricity in Luzon after Typhoon Peipah crossed the island earlier this month. With the recent rains having saturated the ground around the Mayon Volcano in the Bicol region, there is a worry that last year’s landslides, which killed more than 1,000 people, could be repeated.


Figure 1 is an infrared imagery taken of Tropical Cyclone Hagibis.


Figure 2 is a TRMM graphic showing 24 hour flooding potential.


Figure 3 shows a TRMM preciptation radar of Hagibis.

Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Sidr

By: Weather456, 10:53 PM GMT on November 14, 2007

Cyclone Sidr heads towards Calcutta

Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Sidr has intensified over the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal and has become a strong category 4 cyclone now named ‘Sidr’.

The eye of Sidr is around 574 miles (924 kilometres) south of Calcutta, India and the west coast of Bangladesh. Sidr is moving north at approximately 7 mph (11 km/h). The category 4 storm has sustained winds of around 140 mph (225 km/h) with gusts reaching 170 mph (274 km/h).

The storm has intensified rapidly but The Joint Typhoon Warning Center expects it to lose power as it nears land. Sadr could produce some very heavy falls of rain as it makes landfall giving rise to flooding and landslides across a large area.

Northeastern India and Bangladesh are regularly affected by tropical storms that form out in the Bay of Bengal. In 1991, a powerful cyclone that hit near Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, left 138,000 people dead and around 10 million homeless.

Cyclone Sidr is expected to make landfall early on Friday.

===========================================================================
RSMC - IMD
Bay of Bengal, Northern Indian Ocean


Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Sidr (06B)

Located: 16.0N-89.0E, 750 KM SOUTH OF KOLKATA

Movement: Towards the north near 9 Knots

Central Pressure: 966 HPA - IMD/926 HPA - JTWC

Maximum Winds: 130 Knots

Warning Per RSMC
THE VERY SEVERE CYCLONIC STORM “SIDR” OVER EASTCENTRAL AND ADJOINING WESTCENTRAL BAY OF BENGAL REMAINED PRACTICALLY STATIONARY AND LAY

CENTRED AT 1500 UTC OF TODAY, THE 14TH NOVEMBER 2007 OVER EASTCENTRAL AND ADJOINING WESTCENTRAL BAY OF BENGAL NEAR LAT. 16.00 N AND LONG

89.00 E, ABOUT 750 KM SOUTH OF KOLKATA(42809 ). IT IS LIKELY TO INTENSIFY FURTHER AND MOVE IN A NORTHERLY DIRECTION AND CROSS WEST

BENGAL-BANGLADESH COAST NEAR SAGAR ISLAND (42903) BY 16TH NOVEMBER 2007 MORNING.

ESTIMATED CENTRAL PRESSURE: 966 HPA

THE SATELLITE IMAGERIES SHOW SOLID INTENSE TO VERY INTENSE CONVECTIVE CLOUDS AROUND THE SYSTEM CENTRE. CURRENT INTENSITY: T5.0 RPT T5.0.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED SURFACE WIND SPEED IS 90-100 KTS AROUND THE STROM CENTRE.

SEA: PHENOMENAL.

FORECAST: THE STORM IS LIKELY TO MOVE IN A NORTHERLY DIRECTION AT ABOUT 09 KT. INTENSITY T5.5 RPT T5.5 WITH WINDS OF 110 KT GUSTING TO 125

KTS NEAR THE CENTRE OF THE STORM AT 1500 UTC OF 15TH NOVEMBER 2007.



Satellite Imagery


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Surface Observations from CALCUTTA DUM, India (VECC) - In the path of Sidr

Waves and Seas

Potential Impact

Webcam of Kolkata, India

Weather456

Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Sidr/Austria's Early Winter

By: Weather456, 8:47 PM GMT on November 13, 2007

Some of the information on this blog is provided by the BBC World Service



Winter arrives early in Austria
The weekend has seen a record early onset of severe weather across large parts of Austria.

A storm generated by low pressure across southeast Europe, moved across Austria bringing heavy snow falls and strong winds. Langem am Arlberg had 112cm (44inches) of snow over 48hrs with winds reported to have peaked over 100mph (160km/h) here. Some areas suffered serious damage. The Tirol area of Austria measured 40cm (15.75inches) of new snow while Salzburg had up to 70cm (28inches); however there were reports of up to 150cm (59inches) in places.

The onset of severe weather prompted the closure of roads, some blocked, but others closed as a precaution due to the risk of avalanche. Austria's avalanche warning system raised the alarm to the second- highest possible. One of the roads closed gives access to the elite ski resorts of Lech and Zurs in Arlberg. The previous time that Lech was cut off so early in the winter was 1974.

Meteorologists over the weekend described the weather as being the kind of conditions only experienced in the Alps every 30 to 50 years. This comes on the back of the 2006 season when ski resorts were sent into a panic over a lack of snow and climatologists announced the Alps to be at their warmest for 1,300 years.

The winter weather is expected to last for the rest of the week.


Figure 1. MODIS TERRA image of Western Austria. Image taken November 10 at 1300 UTC.

Renewed flooding in Vietnam by Denise Kane

Fresh flooding in central Vietnam has claimed the lives of 24 people with scores of others missing.

Violent floods caused by three days of torrential rain have cut off roads and railways across several provinces. Around 25,000 people were evacuated to higher ground to escape the rising floodwaters, as more than 61,500 homes were submerged. Dozens of homes were completely destroyed in the Quang Hgai Province, while a series of landslides along a stretch of main road have isolated the Tay Tra District.

Around 3,000 tourists have been confined to hotels in the city of Hue as the rains pounded central districts of the country.

In Khanh Hoa province, rising floodwaters damaged the enclosure of a crocodile farm, allowing hundreds to escape into surrounding area. People are now faced with the threat of hundreds of crocodiles swimming in the floodwaters.

With the prolonged flooding that Vietnam has seen, health officials have warned of the spread of various water borne diseases. Acute diarrhoea and cholera have already affected around 2000 people.

The heaviest rain has eased across central parts, but forecasters are expecting further periods of heavy rain and thundery showers over the next few days.


Figure 2. TRMM Weekely Rainfall Accumulations in MM of Southeastern Asia.


Figure 3. TRMM Weekly Flooding Potential in MM of Southeastern Asia.

Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Sidr

Surface Observations from CALCUTTA DUM, India (VECC) - In the path of Sidr

Waves and Seas

Potential Impact

An area of disturbed weather developed near the Andaman Islands on November 9. It gradually became better organised as it passed to the south of the islands, and the system was designated Depression BOB 09 by the India Meteorological Department early on November 11. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center upgraded it to Tropical Cyclone 06B at the same time. Later that day, it intensified into a deep depression as it moved slowly north-westward. The IMD upgraded the system to Cyclonic Storm Sidr early on November 12. The system then began to intensify quickly as it moved slowly northwestward, and the IMD upgraded it to a severe cyclonic storm later that day and a very severe cyclonic storm early the next day.

From The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD)

ESTIMATED CENTRAL PRESSURE: 964hPa.

THE SATELLITE IMAGERIES SHOW SOLID INTENSE TO VERY INTENSE CONVECTIVE CLOUDS AROUND THE SYSTEM CENTRE.

CURRENT INTENSITY: T5.0 RPT T5.0.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED SURFACE WIND SPEED IS 90-100 KTS AROUND THE STORM CENTRE.

SEA: PHENOMENAL.

FORECAST: THE STORM IS LIKELY TO MOVE IN A NORTH-NORTHWESTERLY DIRECTION AT ABOUT 05 KT.

INTENSITY T6.0 RPT T6.0 WITH WINDS OF 115 KTS GUSTING TO 130 KTS NEAR THE CENTRE OF THE STORM AT 1500 UTC OF 14TH NOVEMBER 2007.


Figure 4. TRMM Precipitation Radar of Severe Cyclonic Storm Sidr.

British Colombian Low and Sidr

By: Weather456, 11:13 PM GMT on November 12, 2007

British Colombian Low
An extratropical storm system is centered on a 971 mb low over Southwest Canada accompanied with a 2400 km long moisture plume in association with its frontal boundary as seen in figure 1. This deep moisture plume is bringing scattered rain showers, increase winds and wave action to offshore areas across the Northwestern United States and British Colombia.


Figure 1. GOES-11 visible image of the Northeastern Pacific and Western North America.


Figure 2. GOES-11 visible image of the extratropical storm over Southwest Canada.


Figure 3. Weatherunderground surface wind speeds for the Northwestern United States.

Severe Cyclonic Storm Sidr

An area of disturbed weather developed near the Andaman Islands on November 9. It gradually became better organized as it passed to the south of the islands, and the system was designated Depression BOB 09 by the India Meteorological Department early on November 11. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center upgraded it to Tropical Cyclone 06B at the same time. Later that day, it intensified into a deep depression as it moved slowly north-westward. The IMD upgraded the system to Cyclonic Storm Sidr early on November 12. The system then began to intensify quickly as it moved slowly northwestward, and the IMD upgraded it to a severe cyclonic storm later that day.

As of 1800 UTC, SIDR was located near 11.6N/90.0E with winds of 105 knots and a central pressure of 944 mb.

Impacts
Waves
Winds
Chennai (Madras), India
Webcams (Soon)


Figure 4. Tropical Cyclone Sidr was gathering strength when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this photo-like image on November 12, 2007. The storm’s swirling clouds straddle the center of the Bay of Bengal with the eastern shores of Sri Lanka and India forming the left edge of the image. At the time that this image was taken, Sidr was relatively small, with sustained winds estimated at 100 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour or 55 knots), the equivalent of an Atlantic tropical storm. Despite its small size, Sidr is well-formed with a dark spot near the center where an eye may be developing surrounded by tight bands of clouds. On November 12, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast that Sidr would grow to the equivalent of a Category 2 storm, with sustained winds of 170 km/hr (100 mph or 90 knots) by November 14.

Black Sea Storm
24 Hr Loop

Russia says the bodies of three sailors have washed ashore in the northern Black Sea, a day after a fierce storm sank at least five ships near the Ukrainian and Russian coasts.

Authorities are searching for five other sailors still missing, but the approach of another storm is undercutting hopes of finding them alive.

The storm ripped apart a Russian oil tanker anchored in the Kerch Strait, spilling 2,000 tons of fuel oil into that waterway between the Sea of Azov and Black Sea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov to travel to the strait to coordinate efforts for handling the disaster. Mr. Zubkov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych Monday discussed the situation by telephone.

Reuters news agency says about 1,000 oil-coated wetland birds, known as rails huddled Monday on a beach in the disaster area, some unable to fly and others unable to walk.

Russian prosecutors have opened an investigation into possible criminal charges for pollution from the shipwrecks.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Weather456's Tropical Weather Blog

About Weather456

With a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Sciences (2009), began tracking tropical storms in 2002 and is now a private forecaster.