Morreu Herb Saffir, co-autor da escala Saffir-Simpson


23 Jan 2007
Morreu Herb Saffir, engenheiro de estruturas que juntamente com Robert Simpson do NHC criaram em 1969 a escala Saffir-Simpson de Furacões.
Dedicou grande parte da vida ao estudo e investigação de estruturas mais seguras para resistirem a tempestades e foi um dos grandes impulsionadores de códigos e normas de construção obrigatórias no estado da Flórida.

Herb Saffir of Saffir-Simpson Scale dies

Herbert Saffir, co-creator of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale and a persistent advocate of strong building codes, has died. He was 90.

Saffir died of a heart attack Wednesday night at South Miami Hospital, according to his son, Richard.

''He was an absolute leader in the field,'' said Miles Lawrence, who retired in 2005 after nearly 40 years as a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center. ``He was one of the greats in terms of having an impact on the dialogue about hurricanes.''

Soft-spoken but determined and active almost to the end, Saffir began developing the five-category hurricane scale during the late 1960s.

He soon enlisted the assistance of Robert Simpson, then director of the hurricane center in West Miami-Dade County, and their system of rating the destructive capability of hurricanes on the basis of wind speed and storm surge moved into common usage during the mid-1970s.

Now, it is mentioned so frequently that a sort of shorthand has taken hold. Category 1. Category 2. Category 5. The words ''Saffir-Simpson'' rarely appear in the media, a development that annoyed Saffir's relatives and close associates, but he never made a big deal over it.

''It spread through the emergency management community like wildfire when it was introduced,'' Lawrence said. ``Dividing hurricanes into categories was an idea whose time had come. It was a wonderful way to collapse the information into a way that was easier to understand.''

Though best known for that scale, Saffir worked tirelessly in public and behind the scenes as an advocate of fortified building standards -- and for tough enforcement.

Local officials said he was instrumental in developing South Florida's post-Hurricane Andrew building code, widely viewed as the most storm-resistant in the nation.

Saffir said the region had no choice, repeatedly warning that South Florida remained vulnerable to the Big One, a storm as powerful as Andrew but larger and lingering longer over the region, inflicting unimaginable destruction.

''I certainly think Katrina is a wake-up call to all of us,'' he told The Miami Herald in 2005.

''People who live in Florida or along the coast have to realize that it's going to happen sooner or later,'' he said. ``I can't say that emphatically enough. Accept this as a fact of life and be thankful that you can prepare and that we have a good warning system.''

Originally from New York, Saffir and his wife Sarah moved to Miami just in time not only for the September 1947 hurricane but for another just a month later.

Saffir's original intention was to design bridges, and he has about 50 to his credit, but hurricane protection was his passion.

Even as the ravages of advancing age took hold, he went nearly daily to his small office in Coral Gables and peppered forecasters and reporters with letters and reports, trying to make certain that they always maintained focus on the most important issue -- safeguarding the public.

Just two years ago, he expressed alarm after Hurricane Wilma -- with Category 2 winds in Broward and Category 1 winds in Miami-Dade -- blew out thousands of windows from downtown skyscrapers.

He said he was ''dumbfounded'' by the damage and suggested that the tough building code was not being effectively enforced.

''Even if it had been the pre-Andrew code, I think those windows should have stayed in place,'' he said.

Saffir's wife died about five years ago. In addition to his son, he is survived by a daughter, Barbara.

A memorial service will be held, though the plans are not complete.