What you need to know about the power of hurricane winds

You might not know that Texas has more wind turbines spinning than any other state. In fact, almost three times as many as Iowa, which is second. Take a look at the map below and you’ll see that we are the leaders in providing wind energy:

Megawatts of wind energy by state courtesy wikipedia

So that’s the upside to wind -- it’s a great provider of energy and a clean resource for it.

But wind is destructive and it destroys exponentially. That means as the wind increases, we don’t see just a simple linear increase in destruction. It’s like an earthquake where the stronger the quake the worse it quickly becomes. Take a look at the chart below and you can compare a 100 mph wind to a 75 mph wind showing TEN TIMES the damage potential. Look how the damaging effect shoots up dramatically with higher winds:

Comparative Wind Destruction

Study that chart for a moment. I have friends in Galveston who say they won’t leave unless a storm is higher than a Category 2. But look at the top of a Cat. 2 at 110 mph vs. a Cat. 1 at 75 mph: the damage potential is 21 times greater! Don’t just look at the category, look at the wind!

And guess what else wind does?

Wind is what creates storm surge as it pushes the water toward the coast, and Laura will be pushing water from 800 miles away! That creates the possibility for an Ike-like storm surge at landfall (off-shore wave forecasts are for 60 feet). The National Weather Service issued this graphic showing what just a 100 mph hurricane would do in terms of surge on our coast:

Storm Surge potential

That is the Cat’s MEOW, meaning Maximum Envelope Of Wind based on the storm’s CATegory. It’s a clever acronym, but the potential is alarming. That 100 mph wind can create a surge of 9-15 feet, exactly what Ike brought with even higher amounts in concave areas of the bay like Eagle’s Point (Bacliff). When water goes into concave areas it has nowhere to go but up.

Stay weather aware these next two days. The track for Laura may change back and forth as models try to get a handle on this.


About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.