Hurricanes – The Greatest Storms on Earth
What is a Hurricane?
A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for a low-pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. The cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms and, in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:
An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds (defined as a 1-minute average wind measured at about 33 ft above the surface) of 38 mph or less
An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39-73 mph
An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. Hurricanes are categorized according to the strength of their winds using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (see http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php for more information). A Category 1 storm has the lowest wind speeds, while a Category 5 hurricane has the strongest. These are relative terms, because lower category storms can sometimes inflict greater damage than higher category storms, depending on where they strike and the particular hazards they bring. In fact, tropical storms can also produce significant damage and loss of life, mainly due to flooding.
Category 1……Winds 74-95 mph
Category 2……Winds 96-110 mph
Category 3……Winds 111-130 mph
Category 4……Winds 131-155 mph
Category 5……Winds 156 or greater
Each year, an average of ten tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean and never impact the U.S. coastline. Six of these storms become hurricanes each year. In an average 3-year period, roughly five hurricanes strike the US coastline, killing approximately 50 to 100 people anywhere from Texas to Maine. Of these, two are typically “major” or “intense” hurricanes (a category 3 or higher storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale).
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Hurricane Watch or Warning? Know the Difference
A HURRICANE WATCH issued for your part of the coast indicates the possibility that your could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours. This watch should trigger your family’s disaster plan, and protective measures should be initiated, especially those actions that require extra time such as securing a boat, leaving a barrier island, etc.
A HURRICANE WARNING issues for your part of the coast indicates that sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 24 hours or less. Once this warning has been issued, your family should be in the process of completing protective actions and deciding on the safest location to be during the storm. The hurricane threat to Southeast Louisiana may be the GREATEST PROBLEM facing the state today. The low-lying coastal parishes are extremely vulnerable to flooding by the hurricane storm surge and heavy rains. In addition, the flat terrain does little to diminish the strength of the damaging wind as hurricanes approach the coast. Add the fact that over a million people live in coastal areas of southeast Louisiana and it’s easy to understand that WE MUST BE PREPARED.
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