Hurricane wind damage simulation using GIS (geographic information system)
Fernández, Carlos C.
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Hurricanes are among the most powerful and dangerous natural phenomena. Every year in the United States, hurricanes are responsible for casualties and billions of dollars in property damage. Recently, researchers have been able to reasonably anticipate the number of hurricanes that will develop during a hurricane season and even how many of those hurricanes will make landfall in the United States. Unfortunately, forecasters have not been able to determine the areas that will be affected by landfalling hurricanes on a given year, so that local governments and emergency agencies could reduce the impact of these windstorms. Nonetheless, the ability to predict property damage in a particular region due to a simulated hurricane could be a valuable tool for wind damage mitigation, post-storm recovery, and reliable insurance underwriting for structures against wind damage. This study presents a prediction scheme to estimate wind-induced damage to buildings of an area subjected to hurricane winds. The methodology involves the simulation of hurricane winds, application of geographic information system (GIS) platforms, and determination of damage to structures using a wind damage prediction model and an up-to-date database of building characteristics. The result of the analysis is an estimate of wind damage in dollar loss based on the current market value of the buildings. A case study demonstrates the application of the proposed method. The simulation of hurricane winds consists of wind strength vectors likely to result from a predefined hurricane. This simulation is accomplished using a hurricane wind field model (for winds prior to landfall) and a hurricane decay model (for winds after landfall). Once the hurricane winds are produced, GIS software is used to visualize and query the wind field. The wind field is overlaid on top of the existing buildings of the area, which allows determination of the maximum wind speed sustained by each building. Finally, given the maximum wind speed and building attributes for each building, a damage function gives an estimate of the total damage loss (in dollars)..