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Windy cities: Researchers invent new tool to calculate hurricane risk
Date:8/2/2010

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"This method is unique because it uses extreme value distributions that allow us to better estimate extreme events," Malmstadt said. "Other approaches use various distributions that work incredibly well when trying to estimate the average event, like category 1 or 2 hurricanes. They may be underestimating or overestimating the extremes even if they are right on with the average."

The Hurricane Risk Calculator can provide important information to emergency planners, the insurance industry and homeowners, Malmstadt said, noting that the state of Florida especially has experienced more than $450 billion in damages from hurricanes since the early 20th century.

"Hurricanes top the list of the most destructive and costly natural disasters in the United States," she said. "For society to better cope with and mitigate these disasters, a more precise estimate of the risk of high winds on the local level is needed. The Hurricane Risk Calculator does that."

Florida is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes because warm seas surround the state, but some locations are even more vulnerable than others. Along with Miami, its South Florida neighbors Port St. Lucie, Key West and Cape Coral are the cities with the highest wind strength and shortest return periods.

Gulf Coast cities Pensacola and Panama City are no strangers to strong hurricane winds, although their locations in the western Panhandle mean they are protected somewhat by the Florida peninsula itself from winds coming from the southeast. Still, Pensacola can expect to see a hurricane with 112 mph winds once every 24 years, according to Malmstadt.

The cities of Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville join Tallahassee as the cities with the least vulnerability.

Still, Malmstadt cautioned that "people who live anywhere in Florida could receive a hurricane threat, so they should always be ready and prepared for one of the extremes."

The researchers also
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Contact: Jill Malmstadt
jcm07d@fsu.edu
414-704-2432
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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