Hurricane Facts

What is a hurricane?
A hurricane is a huge storm! It can be up to 600 miles across and have strong winds spiraling inward and upward at speeds of 75 to 200 mph. Each hurricane usually lasts for over a week, moving 10-20 miles per hour over the open ocean. Hurricanes gather heat and energy through contact with warm ocean waters. Evaporation from the seawater increases their power. Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around an "eye." The center of the storm or "eye" is the calmest part. It has only light winds and fair weather. When they come onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds and large waves can damage buildings, trees and cars.

How do hurricanes form?
Hurricanes only form over really warm ocean water of 80įF or warmer. The atmosphere (the air) must cool off very quickly the higher you go. Also, the wind must be blowing in the same direction and at the same speed to force air upward from the ocean surface. Winds flow outward above the storm allowing the air below to rise. Hurricanes typically form between 5 to 15 degrees latitude north and south of the equator. The coriolis force is needed to create the spin in the hurricane and it becomes too weak near the equator, so hurricanes can never form there.                                         

Hurricane Formation

When does hurricane season start?
The Atlantic hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, but most hurricanes occur during the fall months. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season is from May 15 to November 30. (Below is a graphic that shows you when hurricanes are most active across parts of the world.)

Hurricane Formation
 

Who names hurricanes?
From 1950 to 1952, tropical cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean were identified by the phonetic alphabet (Able-Baker-Charlie-etc.), but in 1953 the US Weather Bureau switched to women's names. The rest of the world eventually caught on, and naming rights now go by the World Meteorological Organization, which uses different sets of names depending on the part of the world the storm is in. Around the U.S., only women's names were used until 1979, when it was decided that they should alternate a list that included men's names too. There's 6 different name lists that alternate each year. If a hurricane does significant damage, its name is retired and replaced with another.

Know the Lingo

HURRICANE WATCH - Hurricane conditions with sustained winds of 74 mph or greater are possible in your area within the next 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 and leaving a barrier island.

HURRICANE WARNING - Hurricane conditions are expected in your area within 24 hours. Once this WARNING has been issued, your family should be in the process of completing protective actions and deciding the safest location to be during the storm.

Hurricane Safety Tips

BEFORE A HURRICANE: Have a disaster plan and a pet plan ready. Before a storm threatens, contact your veterinarian or local humane society for information on preparing your pets for an emergency. Board up windows and bring in outdoor objects that could blow away. Make sure you know which county or parish you live in and know where all the evacuation routes are.
Prepare a disaster supplies kit for your home and car. Have enough food and water for at least 3 days. Include a first aid kit, canned food and a can opener, bottled water, battery-operated radio, flashlight, protective clothing and written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas, and water. Have a radio handy with plenty of batteries, so you can listen to storm advisories. Have some money handy as well, because following a hurricane, banks and ATMs may be temporarily closed. Make sure your car is filled with gasoline.

DURING A HURRICANE: Stay away from low-lying and flood prone areas. Always stay indoors during a hurricane, because strong winds will blow things around. Leave mobile homes and to go to a shelter. If your home isnít on higher ground, go to a shelter. If emergency managers say to evacuate, then do so immediately.

AFTER A HURRICANE: Stay indoors until it is safe to come out. Check for injured or trapped people, without putting yourself in danger. Watch out for flooding which can happen after a hurricane. Do not attempt to drive in flooding water. Stay away from standing water. It may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines. Donít drink tap water until officials say its safe to do so.

Home