Monday, January 25, 2010

More storms for Texas, researchers say

Phil Gusman in P&C Underwriter: Storm frequency and severity will likely increase in Texas in the coming years due to climate change, according to weather researchers. At a conference held at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business, sponsored by the Willis Research Network, Harold Brooks of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) said straight-line winds—violent air currents that usually accompany thunderstorms and are produced when areas of low and high pressure collide—represent a growing threat to homes and businesses.

He said compared with hurricanes, tornadoes and, to a lesser extent, hail, such winds are a relatively small contributor to structural damage at present. But he added that as the climate changes, NSSL researchers believe these events will become more frequent and therefore contribute more significantly to overall damage.

“Based on what we know about the potential patterns of climate change, we expect severe storm activity to increase in Texas and the Midwest, including higher activity of straight-line winds with potentially damaging effects,” Mr. Brooks said.

One way to mitigate against storm damage is to build stronger buildings. Better building performance can be assured by spending a few percent more on construction that goes beyond the minimum building code requirements, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). Tim Reinhold of IBHS advocated tougher building standards that will hold up in the face of increased storms….

Hildalgo County, Texas, July 30, 2008 -- Eight days following Hurricane Dolly's landfall, residents were still cut off by flood waters and had to wade through water to reach passable roads. Photo by Patricia Brach/FEMA

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