Hurricanes are Mother Nature’s most severe storms. High winds, clouds and rain move around the calm center of the hurricane, referred to as the “eye of the hurricane”.
Surrounding the “eye of the hurricane” is the strongest winds of the hurricane. These winds are known as the Eye wall. These winds swirl around the eye in a counter-clockwise motion at speeds anywhere from 74 to 200 MPH. In the summer and late fall, the air over the ocean warms up considerably, picks up moisture and begins to move in a circular motion, forming a tropical depression. If the wind speed accelerates above 39 mph, then it is classified has a Tropical Storm and is giving a name. When the wind reaches 74 mph, then the storm becomes a hurricane.
A hurricane creates 6 major hazards: storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, heavy rain, power outages and flooding.
Storm surge is a rise in the sea level caused by strong winds. It affects both coastal and inland areas.
High winds from 74 to 200 mph, take down trees, houses and anything else in the storm’s path.
Tornadoes are often spawned by hurricanes. If this occurs, seek shelter immediately in an interior bathroom or small hall, preferably below ground level.
Flooding caused by the torrential rains can occur in both coastal and inland areas. Residents of storm-prone areas should purchase flood insurance (which is not provided for in homeowner’s policy).
Hurricanes can be dangerous killers. Learning the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage.
Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 1 every year, with August, September and October being the busiest months of the season. The areas affected are the coastal states (Atlantic, Pacific and the gulf of Mexico). The real danger of hurricanes is the wind and the derby that it picks up. Another danger is the storm surge. Also the flood and flash floods that occur during the storm.
Hurricane watches and warnings
A Hurricane watch is issued by NOAA, when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24 – 36 hrs.
A Hurricane warning is issued by NOAA, when there is a threat of hurricane conditions with 24 hrs.
Understanding the Terminology.
A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation. Tropical cyclones rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere.
Tropical Depression. A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
Tropical Storm. A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
Hurricane. A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph, (64 knots) or higher. In the Western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons, similar storms in the storms in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.
Major Hurricane. A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph, 96 knots), or higher. Corresponding to a Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
A post - tropical cyclone is a system that no longer possesses sufficient tropical characteristics to be considered a tropical cyclone.
Hurricane Categories, (Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).
Category 1, (Sustained Winds 74 to 95 mph). Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of will 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. (Sustained Winds 96 to 110 mph). Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage. Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallow 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. (Sustained Winds 111 to 129 mph). Devastating damage will occur. 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. (Sustained winds 130 to 156 mph). Catastrophic damage will occur. 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 or damaged. 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. (Sustained winds of greater than 156 mph). Catastrophic damage will occur. 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 possible months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Plan an evacuation route.
Contact the local emergency management office, ask for the community hurricane preparedness plan. This plan should include information on the safest evacuation routes and nearby shelters.
Learn safe routes inland. Be ready to drive 20 to 50 miles inland to locate a safe place.
Make arrangements for pets. Pets may not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on local animal shelters.
Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a hurricane.
Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.
Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.
Protect your windows. Permanent shutters are the best protection.
A lower-cost approach is to put up plywood panels. Use 1/2 inch plywood--marine plywood is best--cut to fit each window. Remember to mark which board fits which window. Pre-drill holes every 18 inches for screws. Do this long before the storm.
Trim back dead or weak branches from trees.
Check into flood insurance. You can find out about the National Flood Insurance Program through your local insurance agent or emergency management office. There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new policy becomes effective. Homeowners polices do not cover damage from the flooding that accompanies a hurricane.