Late August marks the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. At least 1,833 people succumbed to the hurricane and subsequent flooding, making it the deadliest hurricane to date.
The Guardian did a tour of the abandoned buildings that still, over a decade later, line the streets of some city neighborhoods. The structural damage to buildings, as well as people’s lives, is not easily forgotten. Visible scars still plague the streets of New Orleans. Since Hurricane Katrina, the world has seen several other powerful storms, including, hurricanes Sandy, Ike and Charlie.
The Science Behind Hurricanes
Hurricanes are intense low-pressure areas that form over warm ocean waters in the summer and early fall. As the intensity of the ocean’s warmth heats up, the number of storms and expected severity increases too, which is why the most destructive hurricanes historically impact communities from August to late September.
A hurricane’s intensity is based upon the highest sustained (1-minute average) wind speed produced by the storm. Hurricanes are categorized from Category 1 to Category 5 with each measured based on the amount of damage that each category can produce.
Intensity varies throughout the life of a hurricane with variables such as encountering a land mass along the projected track (decreases intensity) or the amount of water area available to fuel the storm (increases intensity).
Fortunately, with state-of-the-art meteorological tools, such as advanced computer modeling and the use of government run weather satellites, the science of accurate forecasting has steadily improved over time, saving lives and reducing costs associated with hurricanes.
In a natural disaster, the ability of a home to withstand the elements is sometimes difficult. To help ensure safety in hurricane and tornado affected regions, a home needs to provide protection from high winds, pressure and wind-borne debris.
Impact-resistant windows are required by the local and state building codes in many areas prone to natural disasters. These windows and doors are designed to resist breaking and prevent high winds from entering the house or building structure. If a window or door is broken during a storm, strong winds will enter the area. Looking for a way out, the winds have potential to blow-off roofs, damage doors and turn possessions into projectiles, causing considerable damage.
UL performs tests, such as the missile impact test, on merchandise such as windows, doors and louvers to help ensure that these products can resist the effects of wind-borne debris. The UL Certification mark on windstorm-rated devices helps consumers and authorities identify windows and doors that have been designed to protect from the effects of storms, such as hurricane Katrina.
See how UL engineers perform an impact test, shooting an eight-foot wood plank out of a cannon at speeds up to 100 mph. This test simulates what would happen if a large piece of debris, like a wood plank, were thrown at hurricane-force speed into a window. If the window passes UL’s test, it will absorb the blow.
Hurricane-produced winds are forceful enough to send this wood plank through a cinderblock. See just how powerful these disasters can be in this video.
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