The first day of June means a few things: the end of the school year is near, the official start of summer is just around the corner and it’s the first day of hurricane season. In this three part blog series you’ll learn about hurricanes and their threat levels, how to prepare for a hurricane, what to do during this powerful storm and how to respond afterwards. Let’s get to it!
What Exactly IS a Hurricane? Hurricanes are large, swirling storms that produce winds of 74 mph or greater. They form over warm ocean waters and sometimes make landfall. Heavy rain, very strong winds, thunderstorms and storm surges accompany hurricanes.
What’s the Difference Between a Tropical Depression, a Tropical Storm and a Hurricane? A hurricane starts as a tropical depression which is an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph or less. Sustained winds are a 1-minute average wind measured at about 33 ft above the surface. When the storm’s winds increase to 39-73 mph the tropical depression gets upgraded to a tropical storm. When the storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it becomes a hurricane.
What is the Difference Between the Different Categories of Hurricanes? The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale estimates potential property damage.
- Category 1: Winds are 74-95 mph (faster than a cheetah). Well-constructed homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees may snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
- Category 2: Winds are 96-110 mph (as fast or faster than a baseball pitcher’s fastball). Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
- Category 3: Winds will be 111-129 mph (similar to the serving speed of many professional tennis players). Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
- Category 4: Winds reach 130-156 mph (faster than the world’s fastest roller-coaster). Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
- Category 5: Winds are more than 157 mph (similar to the speed of some high-speed trains). A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
What Are the Parts of the Hurricane?
- Eye: The eye is the “hole” at the center of the storm. Winds are light in this area. Skies are partly cloudy, and sometimes even clear.
- Eye wall: The eye wall is a ring of thunderstorms. These storms swirl around the eye. The wall is where winds are strongest and rain is heaviest.
- Rain bands: Bands of clouds and rain go far out from a hurricane’s eye wall. These bands stretch for hundreds of miles. They contain thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes.
Why and How are Hurricanes Named? One reason hurricanes are named is because there can be multiple hurricanes at any given time. Names also make it easier to keep track of and talk about the storms. A storm is given a name if it becomes a tropical storm and that name stays with it if it goes on to become a hurricane. (Tropical disturbances and depressions don’t have names.) For a list of hurricane names for 2016-2021, visit this link.
Next week’s blog will focus on hurricane preparedness, not only for homes but for boats as well. Stay tuned.
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