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Experts Call for Better Way to Rate Hurricanes

Photo by NOAA via Getty Images

The Houston Chronicle reports a lot of people in the weather forecasting business say it’s time to discard the old “Category 1-5″ system of rating the strength of hurricanes.

They say that system — known as the Saffir-Simpson Scale — only tells us the storm’s wind speed. It says little about the storm’s tidal surge which causes the most deaths and property damage.

The destruction wrought by this year’s Category 1 Hurricane Isaac – with its 11-foot storm surge, seven people dead, power knocked out in half of Louisiana and nearly $2 billion in damage – has renewed debate about how to warn people of coming storms.

Hurricane Ike was just a Category 2 when it hit Texas in 2008, but it caused more property damage than any hurricane in Texas history, and it was the second most destructive storm in American history. Ike’s destruction reached far into east Texas as well.

Despite the fact that most hurricane deaths are drownings, most people react to a storm’s Category, or wind rating.  They give little or no thought to the tidal surge and flooding that’s coming with it, whether it has hurricane strength winds or not.

This is why so many people think the National Hurricane Center needs to come up with a more accurate and useful storm rating system that includes the expected storm surge and the potential death and destruction it will cause.

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