Hurricanes are a Unique Force of Nature
HOW HURRICANES DAMAGE ROOFS
If you live in a region that can be affected by hurricanes, like the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coast, making sure your roof can withstand extreme storms is vitally important. Not only can the extreme winds generated by a hurricane tear or blow off shingles, but gutters, satellite dishes, roof vents, and other objects attached to your roof can be torn away become airborne hazards. Objects attached to your roof should be inspected and firmly secured (or taken down, if possible) prior to a high-wind event. Water damage is also a major concern with hurricanes, as wind damage to roofing components can provide rain with easy access to the inside of a home. This is why modern roof systems include roofing underlayments – weatherproofing membranes installed on the roof deck before the shingles are attached – as a vital secondary barrier against leaks.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR AND RECOVER FROM A HURRICANE
Most declared disasters occur due to tropical storms and hurricanes. Eight of the 10 costliest disasters in America’s history have been the result of hurricanes occurring since 1990. The flooding caused by hurricanes accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage every year.
Research from the National Climate Assessment (NCA) shows the number of storms and their severity are increasing every year. Since the 1980s, the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has risen by 80 percent as a result of higher sea temperatures in the Atlantic region. NCA models also predict wetter hurricanes in the future, with greater rainfall rates for hurricanes in warmer climates and increased rainfall near the center of hurricanes.
When Hurricane Dorian — one of the two largest hurricanes ever to make landfall in recorded history — hit the Bahamas in 2019, it was a Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds of 185 mph and 25-foot storm surges. The storm caused $3.4 billion in damages in the Bahamas2, and left 29,500 people with damage to homes and assets.
While hurricane winds are dangerous, the rain and flooding they often produce can be just as perilous. The majority of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 wasn’t produced by winds, but by extreme flooding after it stalled over Texas, engulfing the area in an estimated 33 trillion gallons of flood water3.
HOW HURRICANES FORM
Hurricanes, or tropical cyclones, start out as streams of low-pressure air that move through the moisture-rich tropics before emerging as fierce storms that bring massive rainfall and high-speed winds that leave flooding storm surges in their wake. The category of a hurricane (on a 1-5 scale) is determined by its sustained wind speeds, with Category 4 and 5 storms capable of catastrophic damage. A Category 1 hurricane starts at 74 mph, while a Category 5 hurricane has wind speeds greater than 157 mph. While Category 1 and 2 storms are weaker, they present the threat of stalling over a populated area, dumping excessive amounts rain, and causing rivers and low-lying areas to flood. Hurricanes occur most often from June to November, threatening the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern seaboard of the United States.