British homes and hurricanes.

How would the average British home stand up to the type of hurricanes seen regularly in the Carribean and south eastern America?

I’ve noticed on news footage that almost all the destroyed homes are made from wood and other generally flimsy materials, presumably in an effort to kep the houses cool (is there another reason?).

With the average British home being made from bricks and perhaps less common, stone, how would the damage compare? Obviously the roof would go, and the windows would get smashed from flying debris, but would the buildings be completely flattened like in the Carribean?

Your home would be left pretty much unscathed.
The flattened Carribean and Florida homes are not much more than a flimsy box.
Actually Floridas coasts are lined with high-rise condominiums with roll down shutters to protect the windows from flying debris.
I think they are hardly concerned about any hurricane effecting them.

Carribean homes are made from wood because wood is all they have. There’s no clay in that soil to fire into brick, and not enough stones to be a sueful construction material.

Now, what would happen to a typical English house? Three things you have to worry about:

  1. the impact of a Category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane wind.

  2. the impact of flying debris

  3. the loss of structural integrity

Assuming your brick or stone structure has a frame within it, the impact of flying debris won’t bring down the whole house. However, there are some older forms of masonry construction without framing. All the walls bear the building load, and if one is damaged seriously enough, structural failure follows. You see this happen with earthquakes and tornados (cyclones.)

If the roof trusses are part of the frame of the house, structural integrity can be lost simply by having the roof ripped off by the wind. You see this happen in fires – once the roof burns, the walls cave in.

British homes generally stand up pretty well to the conditions we have here; hurricanes of the kind seen in and nearer to the tropics are pretty rare - although not unheard of - folks here still talk about ‘the Great October Storm’ which happened back in 1987 (and was not just missed by the weather forecasts, but brushed off as nothing to worry about). We also have tornadoes here, more frequently than you might think - on the order of hundreds per year - but they often happen out at sea and/or aren’t anything like the size of the big American twisters that are seen on those (awful)‘When Weather Attacks!’ style shows.

Most houses here are of brick or stone construction, but in very severe conditions, they can still sustain damage to the roof, as these are typically slate or tile over battens on a timber frame. Probably a more common cause of damage is secondary, caused by impact from wind-toppled trees and wind-blown debris, such as loose tiles, fence panels and dustbins etc.

In the Great October Storm (where wind speeds, gusts and conditions generally were comparable to a Carribean hurricane), a huge number of trees came down (causing property damage, death and injury, as well as disruption by blocking roads) a number of houses sustained roof damage or loss, but that number represented a relatively small percentage of the total of houses in the path of the storm.

(Incidentally, I slept right through the whole thing and wondered why there were so many leaves in the gutter the next day, then wondered why nobody had come to clear away that fallen tree at the end of the road, etc)

I suspect that if subjected to repeated battering by a series of tropical hurricanes, houses of standard UK construction would mostly survive the first few, but would start to suffer unseen stress damage, particularly to the integrity of the roof, which would result in big losses once the total number of storms started into double figures (unless they were maintained/repaired in between).

Pitpick - hurricanes are non-existant in Britain. Hurricane-force winds, ie above 70mph steady wind, happen in severe storms.

Houses in areas more prone to heavy storms, mainly northern and western Scotland (and north-western Ireland) are generally built more substantially than those elsewhere in the country, although there’s nothing forcing people to do this.

Tiled roofs would be a major problem in 100+ mph winds - IIRC flying tiles was a major cause of damage in the 1987 storm.

(BTW I too slept through the 87 storm, despite a 40’ tree falling outside my windows)

[back at ya]
1 A severe tropical cyclone originating in the equatorial regions of the Atlantic Ocean or Caribbean Sea or eastern regions of the Pacific Ocean, traveling north, northwest, or northeast from its point of origin, and usually involving heavy rains.
**2 A wind with a speed greater than 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour, according to the Beaufort scale. **
3 Something resembling a hurricane in force or speed.

(emphasis mine)

Oops, maybe I’ll retract my cocky response, as the cited seems to add more weight to your comment than mine.

During the “October storm” I was asleep in an ancient half-timbered house, the oldest house in the area IIRC - and that sucker moved around in a most impressive manner as the winds hit it - waking me up. It didn’t seem to suffer any damage though.
I saw various damaged/totalled roofs and one house where a corner and part of one wall had been torn off exposing rooms like a doll’s house (my memory is that it was brick, but frankly I can’t remember well enough to say for sure that it wasn’t wood-framed)

I know nothing about the 1987 storm, but I was in Guernsey about 3 years ago when the tellie (?) said that a “typhoon” was hitting southern England. They were very excited about this storm. The next day, it was reported that a tornado had also hit the area. The damage they showed was a small wooden porch torn apart and a caravan had been turned over. It was nothing like what happens to mobile homes here in the states, since it was simply turned on its side.

Here is a chart showing the number of tornadoes in the leading countries and the intensity of the tornadoes. The U.S. has 5 times the tornadoes that Australia has and 40 times the number in the UK. 42% of the tornadoes in the U.S. are strong while <10% of those in the UK are as strong. South Africa has very few tornadoes but 35% of them are strong.

Well, I’m going back to the Big One (again), but…

Here’s a picture of Lucas Terrace, a nice brick apartment building formerly in Galveston, Texas (warning, the slide show advances automatically.) Twenty three people survived the 1900 Storm in the second story apartment shown in the photo. Sure, modern masonry cement may have helped things, but the building clearly wasn’t up to the task.

For what it’s worth, most of the wooden homes were flattened as well, but most of the homes on the ocean side of the city that survived were made of wood. I assume that they were better fastened together, with more nails and/or better joinery. I think that the resilience and high tensile strength of wood can make it a better choice for storm-resistant construction.

That sounds about right; tornadoes in the UK are typically the little spindly ones; they last a minute or two and aren’t of sufficient power to whisk Dorothy’s house off to the land of Oz - they will rip a roof and/or fence or two, throw around loose objects and shake things about a little. I saw one off Hayling Island a few years back.

Tell that to the astronomer, Patrick Moore.
This one destroyed his observatory!

I saw the effects of a tornado in Long Stratton , Norfolk. It took off most of the chimney pots from the houses in the High Street .

Quite, but even that one was hardly on the scale of the huge Twisters they get in the USA, that tear a path through entire towns, scouring away everything down to (and sometimes including some of) the soil.

IIRC, Patrick Moore’s ‘observatory’ is/was what most of us would call a ‘garden shed’.

It was Totally Brilliant.

(Except probably some people got hurt and killed, I think, which was sad. And if some Doper happens to have suffered a bereavement during the storm, then I apologise. And other people probably lost a lot of money.)

But, y’know, from the point of view of an 11 year-old Ross, it was Totally Brilliant.


My expertise has now been exhausted.

Also bear in mind that this is not the average British home :smiley:

Precisely. My castle is twice that size.

This isn’t about Britain, but it is about wooden houses.

Most single-family dwellings here in Norge are wooden frame houses. On New Year’s Day, 1992, the coastline north of Bergen and south of Trondheim got hit by a storm with sustained hurricane-force winds. (I was living in Trondheim at the time, and it was dramatic enough that far inland for my taste.) No one died as a direct result of the storm, though property damage was substantial.

One strong trend was noticed after the fact: older homes withstood the storm better than newer ones, although the newer ones were built to meet stricter codes. Why? Two reasons have been proposed, and I think both have some merit. First, the older homes were built in places sheltered from the wind, while newer homes are often located where the view is good, which pretty much guarantees they are exposed on at least one side. Second, newer homes were more likely to have an overhang on the roof to cover a porch, deck, or carport. When the wind blows hard against that overhang, it acts like a sail, and then it’s bye-bye roof time. In the older homes, the roof didn’t stick out very far past the outer walls, leaving little “sail” for the wind to push against.

In any case, though some people were left temporarily homeless, many more returned home quickly to damaged, but inhabitable, houses. Wooden houses can be built to withstand such winds. However, that takes money, skill, and incentive - where the winters can be windy and cold, you’ve got the incentive to spend the money and develop the skills to build a solid house. Where the weather is balmy and mild most of the time, except for a hurricane blowing through every thirty-odd years, the story is a bit different…

Also, remember that much of the damage a tropical hurricane causes is due to the storm surge, not to the winds!

There’s a third explanation for the apparent durability of olde buildings (in all circumstances) - the badly-built ones collapsed long ago, so the ones we see now are the strongest of the lot, not a true representation of older building practices.