In this first article for this season, we go over hurricane preparedness, starting with Hurricane Basics.
Hurricane Preparedness – Hurricane Basics
The ingredients for a hurricane include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture, and relatively light winds aloft. If the right conditions persist for a long enough period, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods we associate with this weather anomaly.
Each year, an average of eleven tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and over the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean for the most part and never impact the U.S. coastline. Six of these storms typically become hurricanes every year. In an average 3-year period, roughly five hurricanes will strike the US coastline, killing approximately 50 to 100 people anywhere from Texas to Maine. Of these, two are typically “major” or “intense” hurricanes, which is classified as a category 3 or higher storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Remember that these are just averages, and these numbers can vary widely year to year, depending on the current conditions. With all the crazy weather lately, do not think that the numbers may remain as suggested here, as we said, they will vary, and some times by quite a bit!
What is a Hurricane?
These are 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:
* Maximum Sustained winds
A 1-minute average wind measured at about 33 ft (10 meters) above the surface.
** 1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour or 1.15 statute miles per hour. Abbreviated as “kt”.
An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds* of 38 mph (33 kt**) or less
An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39-73 mph (34-63 kt)
This is a intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms, combined with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph (64 kt) or higher.
Hurricanes are categorized according to the strength of their winds using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. A Category 1 storm has the lowest wind speeds, while a Category 5 will have the strongest wind speeds. These are basically 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, primarily due to the extensive flooding associated with them.
How are Hurricanes Named?
When the the winds from these storms reach 39 mph (34 kts), the cyclones are then given names. Years ago, an international committee developed names for Atlantic cyclones. In 1979, a six year rotating list of Atlantic storm names was implemented, which alternates every storm between male and female hurricane names. Storm names are used to facilitate the use of geographic, or position referencing, for warning services, for legal issues, and to reduce confusion when two or more tropical cyclones are occurring at the same time. Through a vote of the World Meteorological Organization Region IV Subcommittee, Atlantic cyclone names are retired usually when hurricanes result in substantial damage or death or for other special circumstances. The names assigned for the next several seasons can be found here Future Hurricane Names and to find out about the History of Hurricane Names.
ADDITIONAL HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS SAFETY INFORMATION
Basic Hurricane Preparedness Safety Actions
Know if you live in an evacuation area. Know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Have a written plan based on this knowledge.
At the beginning of hurricane season (June 1st), check the supplies for your disaster supply kit, replace batteries and use food stocks on a rotating basis.
During hurricane season, monitor the tropics.
Monitor NOAA Weather Radio. It is an excellent official source for real-time weather information and warnings.
If a storm threatens, heed the advice from local authorities.
Always evacuate if ordered.
Execute your family plan.
WATCH vs. WARNING – KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
TROPICAL STORM WATCH: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.
TROPICAL STORM WARNING: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area within 36 hours.
HURRICANE WATCH: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
HURRICANE WARNING: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
We sure hope that you take these warnings seriously, as these are not storms to mess with, they are dangerous and deadly! Take these hurricane preparedness – hurricane basics tips and use them wisely! Your live’s can and probably will depend on them!