Public Release: 

Hurricane Research: Engineers Seek Secrets to Safer Structures

National Science Foundation


September 23, 1996
PA/M 96-39


"Blow winds, and crack your cheeks!" _ King Lear

Hurricanes and other wind storms injure and kill, and cause billions of dollars in property damage every year across the U.S. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 cost $30 billion and claimed 18 lives; Hurricane Hugo in 1989, $8 billion and 82 lives. Under the right - or wrong - situation, homes, offices, schools and other buildings can be literally blown away by forces of nature. Engineers and scientists seek more knowledge of construction designs and materials, the interaction of wind and structures, and the structure of wind itself.

The National Science Foundation's civil engineering program provides federal funds to study the effects of severe wind (and quakes and floods) on buildings, bridges, power lines, communication systems and other critical components of our nation's civil infrastructure, with the goal of developing structures and systems that survive better when disaster strikes. At NSF, contact:

  • Elonora Sabadel, (703) 306-1362 She oversees the civil engineering research division's efforts to mitigate damage caused by natural and technological disasters.
  • George Chartier, (703) 306-1070 Public affairs officer for Engineering programs.
Some examples of wind-resisting civil engineering research funded by NSF:
  • Ahsam Kareem, University of Notre Dame (219) 631-6648 President of the American Association for Wind Engineering. He studies the behavior and effects of wind storms on buildings, bridges and other structures, and heads an organization to determine where further research is needed. He works with computer simulation and wind tunnel modeling of wind effects on structures, and he is developing a robotic arm wind load simulator to shake building models like a wind storm does. He is also studying motion control devices in tall, flexible buildings and bridges.
  • Timothy Reinhold, Clemson University (864) 656-5941 He uses wind tunnels and building models to develop a clearer understanding of wind loads and wind effects. He also directs research on the performance of building components and connnections. He is especially interested in the effects of winds on low-rise buildings.
  • Robert Meroney, Colorado State University (970) 491-8574
  • Harold Cochrane, Colorado State University (970) 491-6493
  • Kishor Mehta, Texas Tech University (806) 742-3476 ext.323
_ These researchers are collaborating with an NSF grant supporting the U.S. Cooperative Wind Engineering Program. Studies focus on wind load, wind engineering meterology (especially thunderstorm winds) and wind flow around low-rise buildings. Dr. Cochrane and his staff have developed computer programs to calculate direct/indirect costs to a community when a natural hazard disaster occurs.
  • Ahmad Namini, University of Miami (305) 284-3457 Data from post-disaster investigation on Hurricane Andrew includes loss assessment and analysis of crisis management.
  • Berrin Tansel, Florida International University (305) 348-2928 Her project seeks to identify and analyze the structural debris generated after Hurricane Andrew, along with the social, technical and institutional problems resulting from debris removal and disposal. Goal: Information to help mitigate the magnitude and effects of this debris.

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