Hurricanes have always been a part of global news because of the devastation they cause. Global audiences are usually exposed to the catastrophic phenomenon due to the highly graphic images that depict the loss of human life and property. This article serves to throw more light on this destructive side of nature that can be best termed as a nightmare for many.
On this article, we provide a lot of information related to the hurricane and things you should know. If you are a novice to this topic, we suggest you read from the beginning to the end but if you already have some knowledge, feel free to use the below navigation menu.
What is a hurricane?
Air moves from a high-pressure area to a low-pressure area. Usually, the air moves in a straight direction. However, there are times when the strong winds spiral towards the low-pressure zone due to the earth’s curved shape and rotational movement. This low-pressure weather system accompanied by thunderstorms is called tropical cyclone.
Tropical cyclones with sustained winds traveling at a speed more than 74 mph are called hurricanes. Most of the hurricanes originate in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern North Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes also form in the Indian Ocean and central North Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes are devastating and the Saffir-Simpson rating scale classifies hurricanes based on the wind speeds. There are the five major categories of hurricanes as following:
- Category 1: Hurricanes in this category consists of winds that travel with a speed of 74-95 mph and they are less damaging
- Category 2: Winds in the Category 2 hurricane flow with speeds ranging between 96-110 mph thereby causing extensive damage to property.
- Category 3: Winds associated with Category 3 hurricanes have speeds from 111 to 130 mph and they cause significant damage to property and living things. These hurricanes also cause damage to major infrastructure services like electricity supply.
- Category 4: Category 4 hurricanes have winds that have speeds ranging from 131-155 mph and it takes several months to recover from the damage caused by the strong winds.
- Category 5: Category 5 hurricanes are catastrophic as they have winds that travel greater than 155 mph.
Parts of a Hurricane
A hurricane consists three main parts:
- Eye – This is the central part of the tropical storm that is calm
- Eye Wall – This is the devastating part of the hurricane that is made up of strong winds and rain. The eye wall is the part around the eye
- Rain Bands – These are the clouds that make the hurricane bigger by spinning out
Names of hurricanes
Since 1953, weather forecasters have been naming hurricanes based on a list prepared by the National Hurricane Center. Hurricanes were usually named after females until 1979 when authorities started giving men’s names to hurricanes. Today, the names are determined by the World Meteorological Organization and it is released once after every six years. Moreover, a hurricane name is selected as a male or female name on an alternate basis.
Difference between a hurricane and a typhoon
The terms ‘Hurricanes’ and ‘Typhoons’ refer to the same natural phenomena and these are used interchangeably depending on the location where they occur. The term ‘hurricane’ is used if the weather disturbance occurs in the Atlantic and the Northeast Pacific Ocean basins. The same disturbances in Northwest Pacific are termed as ‘typhoon’ and the disturbances in the Indian Ocean are termed as ‘cyclones’.
Some huge hurricanes in history
These are some of the most deadly and costliest hurricanes that have been recorded in human history:
- Great Hurricane of 1780 was the deadliest hurricane and it caused a loss of 24,000 lives
- Great Galveston hurricane of 1900 was the second deadliest hurricane that caused around 12000 deaths.
- The Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 had a death toll between 2500-3000
- Hurricane Katrina was the third deadliest hurricane and it claimed more than 1500 lives. This hurricane emerged in 2005
- Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Sandy were other devastating hurricanes that caused property damage worth $25 billion, $37.6 billion and $75 billion respectively.
How is a hurricane formed?
Hurricanes start its form in the warm water of the Pacific as well as the Atlantic Ocean. They arise as tropical storms when the evaporated ocean water rises high enough to become hot and moist air that twists. Warm water having temperatures more than 79 F make the hurricane grow in size.
Hurricanes arising in the Atlantic Ocean originate near Africa and they rapidly move to the west under the influence of the Trade Winds. Similarly, hurricanes impacting the eastern Pacific region arise in the warm water of the Central American coasts. Hurricanes lose their power once they cross land or cooler water.
What to prepare for an upcoming hurricane?
The worst thing that anyone living along the coastlines can do is not to prepare for the devastation brought by a hurricane. The National Hurricane Center has explicitly appealed to citizens for not only preparing for the risks but also swing into action when a ‘red alert’ is sounded by the authorities. The center has outlined the following emergency steps that must be followed by people residing in areas impacted by hurricanes:
Planning for a safe evacuation gains highest-priority in an emergency action plan because the hurricanes cause the water level to abnormally rise above the predicted astronomical tide. This ‘storm surge’ damages homes as it sweeps through coastal towns. Hence, people must pay serious attention to the evacuation details and plans that are released by the authorities in public interest. The evacuation routes need to be tested in advance even before the advent of a hurricane.
A thoroughly tested evacuation plan instills the necessary level of confidence amongst the affected people who can find their way to safety even in an anxious state of mind. Pet owners must follow appropriate evacuation procedures for their pets. People staying close to the affected areas must also take safety precautions. Mobile home owners in these localities will have to evacuate as per the instructions.
Apart from preparing for evacuation, people must buy supplies for sustaining themselves while facing the calamity post-evacuation. People falling short of supplies will then be required to face an arduous task of standing in long queues. They might not find enough supplies in times of emergency.
Those residing in evacuation areas must bring a ‘hurricane kit’ to an evacuation shelter. An evacuation shelter might not provide all the bare essentials and hence a personal evaluation kit must have food, water, blanket and clothing. Additionally, the evacuation suitcase must also include first-aid box, a battery-operated radio, local maps, important documents, flashlight, batteries and a whistle to signal help.
Check insurance coverage
Homeowners must buy flood insurance even before they get any signal about an impending hurricane. Car owners need to buy car insurance and they must avoid parking their car out in the open during the hurricane.
Make copies of important documents
People must make copies of the important documents pertaining to government id proofs, home ownership, car ownership, education, bank accounts, and investment details. The documents and their copies must be a part of the evacuation kit as they will need to be produced for reclaiming your property and also during relocation.
Protect your home
The resident of hurricane-prone areas should examine and detect any weaknesses in their housing structures. Buildings in residential complexes need to be carefully examined and their strengths for withstanding the hurricane must be accurately measured. Damaged roofs must be promptly repairs and loose shingles must be refitted. Faulty roof structures tend to be an open vent for gusty winds. Any other structures that are installed on the grounds must be evaluated and fixed. This will prevent any unwanted debris to be flying around during the hurricane.
While repairing their houses, residents must make sure that they buy plywood to cover their windows and to prevent their doors from blowing away. Architects and engineers must plan to build hurricane-proof homes in upcoming residential projects. An appropriate safety place must be identified in the house where residents can take shelter. More importantly, it is so serious to turn off all energy sources while taking shelter inside the house. Residents must be mentally prepared to remain in the shelter for a long and uncomfortable period of time.
Back up critical electronic data
Hurricanes disrupt power infrastructure and it is always safe to keep additional batteries and extra chargers during power outages. All information stored in digital format must be backed up. This is especially critical for companies who can lose business-critical data if it is not backed up in an offsite location. The offsite location must be far away from the hurricane-prone areas. Appropriate security measures need to be followed while backing up critical data.
Maintaining a high level of emergency preparedness is the key to surviving the catastrophe brought about by a hurricane. A good emergency plan can only be chalked out if the all the risks and challenges associated with a hurricane are understood. It is also necessary to avoid overestimating the risks as there are many unforeseeable events that are beyond the human control. However, an effective action plan ensures that the damage to human lives and property is damaged to the greatest extent. Besides helping people to stay strong, an effective disaster recovery plan helps to restore life back to normal after the nightmare is over.