What You Need to Know About Differences in Wind-Speed Reporting for Hurricanes

This week’s post was written by Darren Conrad, PE. Engineering Manager, Truss at Simpson Strong-Tie.

With Hurricane Irma wrapping up, the cleanup after Hurricane Harvey’s devastation underway in Houston and more big storms already churning in the Atlantic, it seems like a good time to discuss hurricanes and high wind. There is a great deal of good information out there to help us better understand hurricanes and their impact on people, structures and other property. To improve awareness of wind speeds and their measurement, this article will discuss a commonly misunderstood aspect of hurricane wind-speed reporting.

When a storm is approaching, you will hear meteorologists report wind speeds. They often refer to storm categories. These categories attempt to generalize expected damage to structures based on the wind speed of the storm. The wind speed for a given storm is a measure of the severity of the storm and the danger it poses to life and property. But how do meteorologists determine the wind speed that they are reporting? It seems so concrete and certain, but anyone who has been outside during a storm or windy day knows that wind isn’t constant at any one location over a period of time. It varies continuously in magnitude and direction over time. So how can something so variable be the subject of knowledge that is precise enough to be useful? How do we understand wind-speed measurements and make sure that when comparing them we are doing so in such a way that they are comparable? That is a great question.

The good news is that even though wind is variable, we have a commonly accepted way to measure wind speed and know something about a wind field or event that is occurring at a time and place. This is done by averaging measured wind speeds over specified lengths of time, or picking the highest average wind speed that occurs for a specified averaging interval from a longer period of time. A great resource for understanding how wind speeds are measured and reported can be seen here. From this explanation, it can be seen that a reported wind speed is meaningless without a specified averaging time. The shortest averaging intervals will yield the highest reported wind speeds. The longer averaging times will capture more peaks and lulls and yield lower reported wind speeds. The most common averaging intervals used to report wind speeds are three seconds, one minute and two minutes. Some countries even use a ten-minute averaging interval for reporting wind speeds. So the question arises, which average is correct? And the answer is, none of them and all of them. They are just different ways of looking at measured wind data. That is not very comforting, but one thing we can know is that none of them can be truly interpreted or compared without understanding this idea of averaging time. To make it more confusing, meteorologists and building codes do not use the same averaging interval when reporting or specifying wind speeds. This can lead to misunderstandings.

In general, you will hear meteorologists report sustained wind speeds when covering an approaching hurricane. They might also mix in some peak gusts, but for the most part they focus on sustained wind speeds. Sustained wind speeds for tropical cyclones use a 60-second averaging time. Sustained wind speed is also used by the Saffir-Simpson scale to roughly quantify the likely damage that the wind from a storm might cause typical buildings and other structures. There are criticisms of the accuracy of the Saffir-Simpson scale method, but it is widely used by the public to generalize about the severity of tropical cyclones; therefore, it is likely that the public might and commonly does attempt to compare reported sustained wind speeds to building-code-specified three-second-gust wind speeds to determine if their house or structure will withstand the storm. There is danger in making that comparison.

We need to be careful when comparing the reported sustained wind speed for a storm with the three-second-gust design wind speeds referenced in building codes and design standards. They are not the same and need to be converted before they can be compared for equivalence. After seeing the following example, one could easily see the possibility of the public or a public official comparing the sustained wind speeds reported by the weatherman to the wind speeds used by building codes and design standards and drawing conclusions that may underestimate the force and effect of the storm.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation where a building jurisdiction has adopted a wind speed of 130 mph three-second-gust design wind speed for structures built in that jurisdiction. There are various methods to convert wind speeds between different averaging times, and many factors that may need to be considered when doing that. One method for converting is the Durst method referenced in ASCE 7. Another more recent method recommended by the World Meteorological Organization provides a pretty straightforward conversion between sustained wind speed and three-second-gust wind speeds for near-surface applications. So for the sake of simplicity, we will use it for this example. If we convert a reported sustained wind speed of 130 mph to a three-second-gust average wind speed using this method, it equates to a three-second-gust wind speed for Off-Sea of 160 mph (Off-Sea is appropriate for an approaching hurricane). The adopted130 mph three-second-gust wind speed converts to 105 mph sustained wind speed. This difference could lead individuals in the path of the storm to underestimate its severity if they are not aware of the difference between averaging intervals for wind speeds. They could see the sustained wind speed of 130 mph being reported by the weather service when the storm is over open water and assume that their structure, or structures in their jurisdiction, will stand up fairly well. This would be a serious underestimate, since those structures would need to be designed to resist a 160 mph three-second-gust wind speed using ASCE 7 in order for that to be true. To say that a different way, one might think that their structure was designed for a Category 4 storm (130 mph sustained), when in fact it was actually designed for a Category 2 storm (105 mph sustained) using the Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricane Irma at its maximum sustained wind speed of 185 mph would equate to a 227 mph three-second-gust wind speed using this conversion method. From a roof anchorage, lateral design and load path design perspective, the difference between 130 mph and 160 mph can be substantial, especially when the building is located on flat open terrain where Exposure C or Exposure D are appropriate assumptions for the design.

There is a lot more background and detail to this very complicated discussion, but the general point is to know your averaging times when comparing reported wind speeds, so as not to underestimate a storm’s force. If a storm is headed your way, hopefully you have already selected the proper hurricane tie for your structure; you have a well-defined and properly designed continuous load path; and you are protecting your exterior openings from windborne debris. Remember, the objective is not to protect the window or door product itself. Unless you are in the insurance business, you are preventing the breach of the opening to keep wind from pressurizing the structure, increasing loads on the structure and potentially causing catastrophic failure.

Know how to secure your structure against high winds, and be safe.

Keep Your Roof On

He huffed, and he puffed, and he blew the roof sheathing off! That’s not the way kids’ tale goes, but the dangers high winds pose to roof sheathing are very real. Once the roof sheathing is gone, the structure is open and its contents are exposed to the elements and much more vulnerable to wind or water damage. It is a storyline that we meet all too often in the news.

About two years ago, the ASTM subcommittee on Driven and Other Fasteners (F16.05), addressed fastening for roof sheathing in high-wind areas by adding a special nail to ASTM F1667-17 – Standard Specification for Driven Fasteners: Nails, Spikes and Staples. The Roof Sheathing Ring-Shank Nail was added to the standard as Table 46. Figure 1 illustrates the nail and lists its geometrical specifications. This is a family of five ring-shank nails that can be made from carbon steel or stainless steel (300 series). Specific features of these nails are the ring pitch (number of rings per inch), the ring diameter over the shank, the length of deformed shank and the head diameter. Also, note B specifies that the nails shall comply with the supplementary requirement of Table S1.1, which tabulates bending yield strength. In this diameter class, the minimum bending yield strength allowed is 100 ksi.

Figure 1. Roof Sheathing Ring-Shank Nails (ASTM. 2017. Standard Specification for Driven Fasteners: Nails, Spikes and Staples, F1667-17. ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA.)

The IBHS (Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety) discusses roof deck fastening in its Builders Guide that describes the “FORTIFIED for Safer Living” structures. The IBHS FORTIFIED program offers solutions that reduce building vulnerability to severe thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes. Keeping the roof sheathing on the structure is critical to maintaining a safe enclosure and minimizing damage, and roof sheathing ring-shank nails can be part of the solution. As Figure 2 from IBHS (2008) shows, every wood-frame structure has wind vulnerability.

Figure 2. Hurricane, high wind and tornado regions of the US (IBHS. 2008. Builders Guide, Fortified for Safer Living. Tampa, FL. 81 pp.)

More importantly for the wood-frame engineering community, the Roof Sheathing Ring-Shank Nails are being included in the next revision of the AWC National Design Specification for Wood Construction (NDS-2018), which is a reference document to both the International Building Code and the International Residential Code. You will be able to use the same NDS-2018, chapter 12 withdrawal equation to calculate the withdrawal resistance for Roof Sheathing Ring-Shank Nails and Post Frame Ring-Shank nails. The calculated withdrawal will be based on the length of deformed shank embedded in the framing member. Also, Designers need to consider the risk of nail head pull-through when fastening roof sheathing with ring-shank nails. If the pull-through for roof sheathing ring-shank nails is not published, you will be able to use the new pull-through equation in the NDS-2018 to estimate that resistance.
Simpson Strong-Tie has some stainless-steel products that meet the requirements for Roof Sheathing Ring-Shank Nails. These will be especially important to those in coastal high-wind areas. Table 1 shows some of the Simpson Strong-Tie nails that can be used as roof sheathing ring-shank nails. These nails meet the geometry and bending yield strength requirements given in ASTM F1667. See the Fastening Systems catalog C-F-2017 for nails in Type 316 stainless steel that also comply with the standard.

Table 1. Simpson Strong-Tie collated nails made from Type 304 stainless steel that comply with F1667-17 specifications for Roof Sheathing Ring-Shank Nails.

Improve your disaster resilience and withstand extreme winds by fastening the sheathing with roof sheathing ring-shank nails. You can find Roof Sheathing Ring-Shank nails in ASTM F1667, Table 46, and you will see them in the AWC NDS-2018, which will be available at the end of the year. Let us know your preferred fastening practices for roof sheathing.

How to Select a Connector Series – Hurricane Tie

When it comes to wood-frame construction, hurricane ties are among the most commonly specified connectors. They play a critical role in a structure’s continuous load path and may be used in a variety of applications, like attaching roof framing members to the supporting wall top plate(s), or tying wall top or bottom plates to the studs. They are most commonly used to resist uplift forces, but depending on regional design and construction practices, hurricane ties may also resist lateral loads that act in- or out-of-plane in relation to the wall.

Simpson Strong-Tie manufactures approximately 20 different models of hurricane ties, not counting twist straps, other clips, or the new fully-threaded SDWC screws often used in the same applications. This assortment of models raises the question, “How do you select the right one?”

In this post, we’ll outline some of the key elements to consider when selecting a hurricane tie for your project.

Demand Load

Let’s start with the obvious one. If your building’s roof trusses have an uplift of 600 lb. at each end, don’t select a hurricane tie with a published capacity of less than 600 lb. It’s also important to consider combined loading if you plan to use the tie to resist both uplift and lateral loads. When the connector is resisting lateral loads, its capacity to resist uplift is reduced. I won’t go into too much detail on this topic since it was covered in a recent blog post, but in lieu of the traditional unity equation shown in Figure 1, certain Simpson Strong-Tie connectors (hurricane ties included) are permitted to use the alternative approach outlined in Figure 2.

Figure 1. Traditional Linear Interaction Equation

Figure 1. Traditional Linear Interaction Equation

Figure 2. Alternative Approach for Simultaneous Loading

Figure 2. Alternative Approach for Simultaneous Loading

What if the tabulated loads in the catalog for a single connector just aren’t enough? Use multiple connectors! An important note on using multiple connectors, though: Using four hurricane ties doesn’t always mean you’ll get 4x the load. Check out the recently updated F-C-HWRCAG16 High Wind-Resistant Construction Application Guide for allowable loads using multiple connectors and for guidance on the proper placement of connectors so as to avoid potential overlap or fastener interference.

Figure 3. Allowable Load Comparison for Single and Multiple H2.5A Connectors

Figure 3. Allowable Load Comparison for Single and Multiple H2.5A Connectors

Figure 4. Proper Placement of (4) H2.5A’s to Avoid Fastener Interference

Figure 4. Proper Placement of (4) H2.5A’s to Avoid Fastener Interference


Dimensional Requirements

While the majority of the hurricane ties that Simpson Strong-Tie offers are one-sided (such as the H2.5A), some are designed so the truss or rafter fits inside a “U” shape design to allow for fastening from both sides (such as the H1). If using the latter, make sure the width of the truss or rafter is suitable for the width of the opening in the hurricane tie – don’t select an H1 for a 2-ply roof truss.

Figure 5. H2.5A and H1 Hurricane Ties

Figure 5. H2.5A and H1 Hurricane Ties

Additionally, the height of the hurricane tie and the wood members being attached should be compatible. For example, an H2.5A would not be compatible with a roof truss configured with only a nominal 2×4 bottom chord over the plate since the two upper nail holes in the H2.5A will miss the 2×4 bottom chord (see Figure 4). This is actually such a common mis-installation that we specifically tested this scenario and have developed an engineering letter on it (note the greatly reduced capacity). In this case the ideal choice would be the H2.5T, which has been specifically designed for a 2×4 truss bottom chord.

Figure 6. H2.5A Installed on 2x4 Truss Bottom Chord

Figure 6. H2.5A Installed on 2×4 Truss Bottom Chord

Figure 7. H2.5T Installed on 2x4 Truss Bottom Chord

Figure 7. H2.5T Installed on 2×4 Truss Bottom Chord


It’s also essential to pay close attention to the diameter and length of the fasteners specified in the Simpson Strong-Tie literature. While many hurricane ties have been evaluated with 8d x 1½” nails for compatibility with nominal 2x roof framing, some require the use of a longer, 8d common (2½” long) nail and others require a larger-diameter 10d nail.

When specifying products for a continuous load path, it’s a good idea to select connectors that all use the same size nail to avoid improper installations on the job. It’s much easier if the installer doesn’t need to worry about which size nail he currently has loaded in his pneumatic nailer.

Wall Framing

Do your roof and wall framing members line up? If so, creating a continuous load path can be made simpler by using a single hurricane tie to fasten the roof framing to studs. The H2A, H7Z, and H10S are some of the connectors designed to do just that. If your framing doesn’t align, though, you can use two connectors to complete the load path. For simplification and to reduce potential mix-ups in the field, consider selecting the same hurricane tie for your roof framing-to-top-plate and top plate-to-stud connections, like the H2.5A.

Figure 8. Roof-Framing-to-Stud Connection with Single Hurricane Tie

Figure 8. Roof-Framing-to-Stud Connection with Single Hurricane Tie

Besides the added benefit of fewer connectors to install, using a single hurricane tie from your roof framing to your wall studs can eliminate top-plate roll, a topic discussed at length in one of our technical bulletins.

Other Factors

Some additional factors that may influence your selection of a hurricane tie are:

  • Environmental factors and corrosion should be considered when selecting any product. Nearly every hurricane tie is available in ZMAX®, our heavier zinc galvanized coating, and several are available in Type 316 stainless steel. A full list of products available in ZMAX or stainless steel may be found on our website. On a related note, be sure to use a fastener with a finish similar to that of the hurricane tie in order to avoid galvanic corrosion caused by contact between dissimilar metals.
  • When retrofitting an existing structure, local jurisdiction requirements will also influence your decision on which hurricane tie to use. As an example, the state of Florida has very specific requirements for roof retrofitting, which we outline in a technical bulletin, and they specifically mention the roof-to-wall connection. Be sure to check with your local city, county or state for specific requirements before you decide to retrofit.
  • Availability of wind insurance discounts in your area could also affect your decision on which type of hurricane tie to use on your home. Your insurance company may provide a greater discount on your annual premium for ties that wrap over the top of your roof framing and are installed with a certain minimum quantity of nails. Check with your insurance provider for additional information and requirements.

Although this is a lot to take in, hopefully it makes choosing the right hurricane tie easier for you on your next project. Are there any other items you consider in your design that weren’t mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below.

Hurricane Strong

This week will see the ultimate combination of events intended to raise public awareness of the necessity for disaster-resistant construction: It is week three of ICC’s Building Safety Month; National Hurricane Preparedness Week, as proclaimed by the U.S. president; the  NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour of the Gulf Coast; and the kickoff of the new HurricaneStrong program.


The ICC says that “Building Safety Month is a public awareness campaign to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create safe and sustainable structures. The campaign reinforces the need for adoption of modern, model building codes, a strong and efficient system of code enforcement and a well-trained, professional workforce to maintain the system.” Building Safety Month has a different focus each week for four weeks.  Week One is “Building Solutions for All Ages.”  Week Two is “The Science Behind the Codes.”  Week Three is “Learn from the Past, Build for Tomorrow.” Finally, Week Four is “Building Codes, A Smart Investment.” Simpson Strong-Tie is proud to be a major sponsor of Week Three of Building Safety Month.


National Hurricane Preparedness Week is recognized each year to raise awareness of the threat posed to Americans by hurricanes. A Presidential Proclamation urged Americans to visit www.Ready.gov and www.Hurricanes.gov/prepare to learn ways to prepare for dangerous hurricanes before they strike. Each day of the week has a different theme. The themes are:
⦁ Determine your risk; develop an evacuation plan
⦁ Secure an insurance check-up; assemble disaster supplies
⦁ Strengthen your home
⦁ Identify your trusted sources of information for a hurricane event
⦁ Complete your written hurricane plan.



This week also marks the NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour, where NOAA hurricane experts will fly with two of their hurricane research aircraft to five Gulf Coast Cities. Members of the public are invited to come tour the planes and meet the Hurricane Center staff along with representatives of partner agencies. The goal of the tour is to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for the upcoming hurricane season. The aircraft on the tour are an Air Force WC-130J and a NOAA G-IV. These “hurricane hunters” are flown in and around hurricanes to gather data that aids in forecasting the future of the storm. As with Hurricane Preparedness Week, each day of the tour features a different theme.  Simpson Strong-Tie is pleased to be a sponsor for Thursday, when the theme is Strengthen Your Home.  Representatives from Simpson Strong-Tie will be attending the event on Thursday to help educate homeowners on ways to make their homes safer.



Finally, this week is the official kickoff of a new hurricane resilience initiative, HurricaneStrong. Organized by FLASH, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and in partnership with FEMA, NOAA and other partners, the program aims to increase safety and reduce economic losses through collaboration with the most recognized public and private organizations in the disaster safety movement. HurricaneStrong is intended to become an annual effort, with activities starting prior to hurricane season and continuing through the end of the hurricane season on November 30. To learn more, visit www.hurricanestrong.org.

Experts consider these public education efforts to be more important every year, as it becomes longer since landfall of a major hurricane and as more and more people move to coastal areas. The public complacency bred from a lull in major storms has even been given a name: Hurricane Amnesia.

All these efforts may be coming at a good time, assuming one of the hurricane season forecasts is correct. A forecast from North Carolina State predicts an above-average Atlantic Basin hurricane season. On the other hand, forecasters at the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University are predicting an approximately average year.

Are you prepared for the natural hazards to which your geographic area is vulnerable? If not, do you know where to get the information you need?