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What is a Hurricane

Nov 12, 2012

With the advent of Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast, it’s hard to open the paper without seeing some hurricane news, so it’s a good idea to get to know exactly what a hurricane is. Hurricanes are what scientists call "strong tropical cyclones." They're a large, rotating system of clouds, wind and thunderstorm activity that wreaks havoc wherever it goes. Get the goods on one of the world’s most deadly natural occurrences in All About Hurricanes.

What happens in a Hurricane?

A hurricane, tropical cyclone, or typhoon is a severe tropical storm that forms in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico or Pacific Ocean. When large parts of the ocean become heated, the air pressure over that area drops, causing thunderstorms, incredible waves and violent winds that start at 74 mph (miles per hour). Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around an "eye." When they come onto land, the torrential rains, winds and waves can damage buildings, trees and cars. In the US, the official Atlantic hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, and the Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 to November 30. However, hurricanes can happen at any time of the year.

Hurricane Classification

Based on their wind speeds and damage potential, hurricanes are ranked according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. It starts at one (lowest winds) and goes up to five (highest winds).

  • Category One: 74-95 mph winds.
  • Category Two: 96-110 mph winds.
  • Category Three: 111-130 mph winds.
  • Category Four: 131-155 mph winds.
  • Category Five: Winds greater than 155 mph.

The Naming Process

A tropical storm is given a name once its winds reach 40 mph. Originally hurricanes were only given girls’ names (like Sandy, or Katrina). The first storm of the year was assigned a name beginning with the letter "A," the second with a "B" and so on. However, boys names were introduced in 1979 and now, the names are alternated. Some male hurricane names in the past have been Andrew and Hugo.

American Hurricanes: Sandy and Katrina

The most recent hurricane to hit American shores was Hurricane Sandy. Sandy was the largest Atlantic Hurricane on record. It was the tenth Hurricane to happen in the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season. It was formed on October 22nd, 2012 and had completely dissipated by October 31st. Sandy devastated portions of the Caribbean, the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeastern United States. The total people who died because of Sandy so far is 191. Sandy started out as a tropical wave in the western Caribbean, but resurfaced as a powerful Category Two Hurricane and took roofs off houses in Jamaica and left 70% of residents without electricity.

On August 24, 2005, a Category One Hurricane formed in the Atlantic Ocean and hit Miami, FL, causing major flooding, loss of power to more than one million residents, and 11 deaths. This hurricane, named Katrina, later became a Category 5, with winds of 175 mph, and hit Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Nearly 2,000 people died as cities were flooded, buildings were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes. Hurricane Katrina was one of the four fiercest US storms ever seen.

Important Terms

  • Hurricane Watch: A hurricane is possible within 36 hours. You should stay tuned to the radio or television for more information    
  • Hurricane Warning: A hurricane with winds of 74 mph is expected within 24 hours. You may have to prepare to evacuate your home.

Find out more about hurricanes in "Hurricanes 101," by National Geographic below!                                                                                

 

Have Your Say

Did you experience Hurricane Sandy or Katrina? Let us know in the comments section below.

12 Comments

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"-Damaged" wrote:I know it can be a little rough to get along with everyone we meet on a day to day basis, but as a community, we should all try to be a little kinder to one another.And that's not just on KW, being kind to people in general can not only improve someone else's day, but yours too! Spreading kindness and ignoring negativity is the best way to get through your day, so give it a shot.Have a good one! Respect -Damaged :) very well said
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ThePaleWalker636
Humans are creatures of habit, and I was no exception. Every Wednesday before classes started, I drove to my favorite coffee shop and ordered a cappuccino. I would sit in the same booth, and drink my coffee for the few minutes I had while the world rushed by. It was the same every time, and I never expected it to be different, until one day I saw a new face appear: an older man of unclear age, who sat in the booth across from me. I thought nothing of it. Why would I? It was merely another person I would probably never see again, or if I did, never remember. But I did see him again, next Wednesday. I still didn’t think much of it. Maybe he was just… a new regular. He didn’t matter to my life. Several weeks passed, and I increasingly began to notice the man in the booth across from me. He wore old clothes that looked well cared for throughout the years, and a hat with a faded emblem that I couldn’t read. The daily paper was always with him, except for the times when he brought a tattered journal, reading and sometimes writing in it. The thing that began to stick out the most over those weeks, though, was that he was always alone. No one ever talked to him except the barista to ask what he wanted (it was always a small, black coffee with two spoonful’s of sugar). After all those weeks, I finally worked up the courage to sit with him and introduce myself. I liked him from the moment he opened his mouth. I eventually learned he was a WW2 veteran, with several medals from various battles. We exchanged stories, I from college, and he from the war. After an hour, I finally realized how much time had passed and had to dart away, but we met again the next Wednesday. We became good friends, but our friendship was limited to phone calls and coffee shop visits. I didn’t know much of his personal life other than stories of his school days. I didn’t really wonder at all, until one day, a familiar face didn’t come. I was worried, though not too much. I simply had my coffee then went to classes. As the day went on, I was increasingly uneasy. He never, not even once, had been MIA. Then I got the phone call. It was a voice I had never heard, a doctor: my friend had suffered a heart attack and had given the nurse this number. He wanted me to come. I immediately left campus without a second thought, and when I arrived at the hospital, his doctor greeted me in front of my friend’s room. “Your father is certainly lucky to survive.” “Oh, I’m not his son.” I waved off the notion. “Really? Oh… You were the only number he gave us. Odd.” This stuck with me. I was the… only one. I was finally let in, and he was barely awake. Sitting down, I took his hand. “Are you sure there’s no one else you want here? Don’t you have any family?” He coughed out a chuckle. “No, kiddo. They’ve all been gone a while. I hope you don’t mind me pulling you away from your classes…” “No! I… I want to be here for you…” “By the way, the coffee here’s terrible. Would you mind going to pick up my usual?” “Small… black coffee with two spoonful’s of sugar.” And we both softly chuckled while I blinked away tears.     Befriend a veteran today.  
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