Skyscrapers and Hurricanes – Thinking Out Loud


In areas where Hurricanes or super high-winds occur it seems we need to be a little more cognizant of the wind-flow modeling as each building is built or a master plan downtown renewal project is slated. This is a very serious issue. Many studies have been done in Chicago “The Windy City” and other places because the air funnels between the buildings and due to Bernoulli’s Principle that air speeds up to make through, between the buildings which makes it even worse.

There were over 230 mph winds recorded in Guam during a tropical typhoon and at the time it was the highest ever. My parents were actually in a high-rise apartment complex when it happened and the building did fine, but flying debris is dangerous and if and when pieces fall off the building they really get going and cause more damage. The Hurricanes in Miami, remnants of Wilma caused severe damage downtown, but much was from the Tornadoes that accompany such storms.

The air flow modeling around cities is quite serious and must be studied, adding an additional building can change everything, there are CAD CAM programs to study this airflow, they also use them indoors for airflow models in homes and businesses to cut down on energy requirements for let’s say air-conditioning and such. These are extremely useful tools and sure beat building models for miniaturized wind tunnels.

One must also remember a Hurricane, Typhoon or Cyclone (depends where you are) will travel a certain way (Counter-Clockwise) and in lower hemisphere opposite, depends the location, but either way the storm as it passed blows winds in all directions, as it moves past, you are hit from different angles of course. See the problem and why this is such a critical issue?

What about 28-foot storm surges? Can you imagine the damage that will be caused by something of this magnitude? That would be a CAT five (plus) on the Saffir Simpson, you are talking center storm pressures pretty low, this would be a “Rita” or “Wilma” plus at land fall and you say what happened Cancun. Serious stuff. God help your beautiful Hilton Hotel or Club Med setting, see ya. You are taking a Tsunami type event similar to what followed the Sumatra Quake. .

Let’s face it 30 feet is 30 feet, if you fail to stop that water it will wipe out everything in its path that is not protected. In the future cities will be set up with ocean-wave energy generation, but can that infrastructure survive at catastrophic storm surge? After all, you do not want the wave to knock out your power leading to a worsened event, but I think the engineers can design a system that can go idle and withstand that type of storm surge using fluid dynamic strategies, computer modeling and allowing it to go neutral and the waves over until the storm passes.

If you want to protect your city from a Hurricane, you must worry about the wind models and the storm surge modeling and perhaps you need a barriers out in the ocean to slow it down too. Reef system etc. and prevent erosion because if you have one storm that wipes out your barriers and get a second you are toast. See the issues – Let us think on this, it can be done!

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