Homes can and do withstand strong hurricanes, if they are designed and reinforced for the wind hazard risk of the area.
Wind loads and construction standards developed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) are referenced and illustrated in wind design maps in building codes. Louisiana first adopted a statewide uniform residential building code shortly after hurricane Katrina, and the version now in effect for single-family homes is based upon the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC), with some Louisiana amendments. The IRC can be accessed online at www.iccsafe.org.
An easy way to find the current wind design speed and other hazard information for your home address or city is a great new online Hazards by Location search tool developed by the Applied Technology Council (ATC). An example result for Lake Charles, LA is shown below.
- To find your wind speed zone, enter your address and click on the Wind box. That will produce a map and wind design speeds for various categories.
- Scroll through the dropdown bar on the left side to the ASCE 7-10 list (per 2015 IRC as adopted by Louisiana) and click Risk Category II, since that is the risk category for residential structures.
- That will add wind speed contour lines on the map and provide the exact wind design speed for your location.
- There will be a highlighted note if your location is in a "wind-borne debris region" that requires impact protections for windows and doors.
- The map will also show the ground elevation above sea level at the location point.
Keep in mind these tips:
South Louisiana is in a hurricane zone. The closer to the Gulf, the higher the wind risk.
- Tornadoes are common in North Louisiana and often embedded in hurricanes.
- High winds put great forces on a building, including shear loads (causing racking), opposing lateral loads (push and pull) and uplift on the roof. Wind loads increase around corners.
- Broken windows, doors and garage doors can result in internal loads that amplify the forces and increase the risk of structural damage.
A house in an unobstructed open clearing or within 1,500 feet of open water is susceptible to higher wind forces from unobstructed winds.
- Wind- and impact-resistant structural reinforcements and design can enable homes to withstand hurricane-force winds. Learn more.
Rather than fortify the entire structure against tornadoes, a specially reinforced “safe room” can more economically provide a shelter that can remain standing even when a house is destroyed.