What is a Hurricane?
A hurricane is a huge tropical storm! It can be hundreds of miles across and have strong winds spiraling inward and upward at speeds of 75 to 200 mph. Recent Category 5 hurricanes include 2005-Katrina (175 mph), 2005-Rita (180 mph), 2005-Wilma (185 mph), 2007-Dean (175 mph), 2007-Felix (175 mph), 2017-Maria (175 mph), 2017-Irma (175 mph).
What makes a hurricane special is that it rotates around the “eye” of the storm, which is the calmest part. Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere. You need three things for a hurricane to form: warm water, cooler air, and wind.
Typically, hurricanes form over warm ocean waters of at least 80°F. That combined with the cooler atmosphere (the air) of early Fall sets things up for a hurricane. Add into that, wind that’s blowing in the same direction and at the same speed, forcing air upward from the ocean surface. The 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 gives hurricanes that special spin you see! Atlantic hurricanes typically occur between June and November.
How are Hurricanes Classified?
Hurricanes are classified into five categories, based on their wind speeds and potential to cause damage.
Category 1: Winds 75-95 mph with minimal damage
Category 2: Winds 96-110 mph with moderate damage
Category 3: Winds 111-130 mph with extensive damage
Category 4: Winds 131-155 mph with extreme damage
Category 5: Winds 155+ mph with catastrophic damage
Sometimes a hurricane will start with a high classification of Category 5 but then drop once it hits land. Once a hurricane hits land it loses strength i.e. decreases in category because of cool temperatures, a lack of moisture, and/or friction. Moisture is what fuels a hurricane!
What are some the most damaging hurricanes in US history?
1. Katrina, 2005
Damage: $160.00 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 110 mph in August, 2005
2. Harvey, 2017
Damage: $125.00 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 115 mph in August, 2017
3. Sandy, 2012
Damage: $70.20 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 100 mph in October, 2012
4. Irma, 2017
Damage: $50.00 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 155 mph in September, 2017
5. Andrew, 1992
Damage: $47.79 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 145 mph in August, 1992
6. Ike, 2008
Damage: $34.80 billion
Max wind speed at landfall: 115 mph in September, 2008
How to Prepare for a Hurricane?
1. Plan your evacuation route.
2. Keep non-perishable emergency supplies on hand.
3. Take an inventory of your personal property.
4. Take steps to protect your home.