In the United States, intense hurricanes (category 3, 4, and 5 on the Saffir/Simpson scale) with winds greater than 50 m s −1 have caused more damage than any other natural disaster [Pielke and Pielke, 1997]. Accurate estimates of wind speed exceedance probabilities (WSEP) due to intense hurricanes are therefore of great interest to (re)insurers, emergency planners, government officials, and populations in vulnerable coastal areas.
The historical record of U.S. hurricane landfall is relatively complete only from about 1900, and most model estimates of WSEP are derived from this record. During the 1899–1998 period, only two category-5 and 16 category-4 hurricanes made landfall in the United States. The historical record therefore provides only a limited sample of the most intense hurricanes.