Herbert Saffir

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National Weather Service Director Jack Kelly presents Herbert Saffir (on right) with a framed poster of Hurricane Andrew depicting the Saffir-Simpson scale

Herbert Seymour Saffir (29 March 1917 – 21 November 2007) was the developer of the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale, for measuring the intensity of hurricanes. As recently as 2005, Saffir was the principal of Saffir Engineering[1] in Coral Gables, Florida. He has published articles on designing buildings for high wind resistance.[2]

Education and early career[edit]

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Saffir graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1940 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering.[3] Saffir worked for Dade County, Florida beginning in 1947 as an assistant county engineer, and worked on updating the county building code. Since that time, he had traveled extensively to study windstorm damage for clues to improvements and has been a tireless advocate for stricter codes in hurricane-prone areas.

Later career[edit]

In 1965, while working on a study of windstorm damage on low-cost housing commissioned by the United Nations, Saffir developed a scale to categorize the intensity of hurricanes by their maximum wind speed. In 1969, his friend Robert Simpson, then-director of the National Hurricane Center, added information on the potential storm surge and range of central pressures for each category, resulting in what later became known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.[4]

Saffir survived the burning of the cruise ship SS Morro Castle on 8 September 1934. The ship was en route from Havana to New York when it caught fire and burned, killing a total of 137 passengers and crew members. Saffir, who was employed as a bellboy on the ship, floated for nearly five hours before being rescued, according to his account related to friends.[citation needed]

On 21 November 2007 Herbert Saffir died of a heart attack at South Miami Hospital, according to his son, Richard Saffir. He was 90 years old.[5]


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