Yes, they do, primarily as a result of wind. Modern buildings are built with "wind loads" computed at hurricane speed and multiplied by a factor of two or more. Older structures, such as the Empire State Building, were not planned in this manner, but were heavier and hence more wind resistant in any case. They can take high winds without collapsing.
This is not to say that hurricanes cannot cause damage to older buildings. They can, but it is usually due to flooding or fallen trees rather than strong winds.
The tallest building in the world today is the Shanghai Tower which is currently being constructed at 103 m (333 ft). When it is completed in 2016, it will be almost twice the height of the current record holder - the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) in Chicago which stands at 58 m (187 ft). The Empire State Building, when it was first built in 1931, was considered revolutionary at that time because it used many innovative design features including vertical transportation systems, glass walls, and electric lights. It is still regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in New York City and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
However, like many other old buildings it suffers from poor maintenance which has led to its demise over time. In 1998, a major storm caused extensive damage to the roof which led to the closure of the building for five months while it was repaired.
Most structures can be designed to survive hurricane damage and wind speeds of up to 170 mph! Quonset structures (as seen above) have by far the highest high-speed wind resistance of any building due to its curved, wind-resistant design. However, even traditional rectangular buildings can be made resistant to high winds by adding storm shutters or bowing them in a southeasterly direction.
The best way to protect your home is to prevent damage from happening in the first place. Follow these steps to ensure that your house is ready for Hurricane Season:
Have an emergency plan in place. Know where you would go if needed and who could help you. Make sure everyone knows how to contact you during a disaster so they can tell police where you are going and why.
Buy flood insurance. Flooding is one of the most common causes of home destruction and it's important to have coverage.
Check out local regulations. Some areas require property owners to remove trees from their property, while others may limit how close buildings can be to the street. Find out what regulations apply to your area and follow them.
Inspect your property regularly. Look for evidence of damage including broken windows, doors that won't close, and blown-off shingles. Fix problems before severe weather arrives so you aren't forced to evacuate your home.
Hurricane winds, on the other hand, are very gusty, to the point of tearing structures apart. If you recall seeing TV video of hurricane winds, you may recall how uneven and gusty they are. Storm panel fasteners and anchors can be ripped apart or vibrated loose by varying forces. Glass in windows and doors is often blown out, causing injuries and damage to nearby property.
Storm-damaged buildings require substantial repair work before they can be safely occupied. Uncontrolled water entering through missing roof panels or broken windows must be removed because it can cause structural damage or lead to health hazards for those who occupy the building. Wet floors can cause serious foot problems if not dried quickly (such as in offices) because bacteria that live in water thrive at body temperature. Heavy rain can also cause roofs to collapse or buckle, which can result in injury or death if people are under them when this occurs.
Even if a building is structurally sound, heavy wind damage may make it unsafe to enter. Doors and windows can be blown off their hinges or completely stripped from their jamb attachments. Floors can be wavy from excessive loading due to missing floorboards, which may contain moisture that can rot wood support beams. Damage to exterior walls can open up spaces within the building where moisture can accumulate and cause damage. Structural damage caused by high winds can be extensive; in some cases, all that remains of a damaged building is its foundation structure.