Hurricanes are beautiful to observe but deadly to experience.
The largest death toll from a hurricane in the U.S. was TX (Galveston) in 1900, a category 4 that claimed over 8,000 lives. For most of us, the memory of the over 1,200 lives that hurricane Katrina claimed in 2005 is still fresh. I remember my first disaster relief trip there in 2006. I arrived nine months after the storm and tens of thousands of people were still displaced and homeless. Streets smelt of mold and were lined with trash and debris. I went back every year for three years, and sadly, many places still looked the same.
Every year the U.S. is hit with an average of 6-7 typhoons and 1-2 major hurricanes. We have already seen Hurricane Barry and three tropical depressions hit the USA. The reality is not if a hurricane will hit, but when.
Below is the 101 on hurricanes! What they are, where they hit, why they form, and how to prepare for it!
What is a Hurricane?
Technically, a hurricane is the same thing as a tropical cyclone.
According to NOAA, “A tropical cyclone is a rotating low-pressure weather system that has organized thunderstorms but no fronts (a boundary separating two air masses of different densities).”
A tropical cyclone gets labeled a “hurricane” when the maximum sustained winds reach 74mph and greater. Once higher than 74mph, hurricanes are categorized 1-5. The higher the number the worse the storm.
Where are Hurricanes most prevalent?
Typically, the storms form over tropical or subtropical waters.
NOAA is the current leading research facility that predicts, tracks, and advises on tropical cyclones. They have found that most “hurricanes originate in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, the eastern North Pacific Ocean, and, less frequently, the central North Pacific Ocean.”
In the U.S. Florida is most frequently susceptible to hurricanes. Second is Texas, and the third in Louisiana.
Why do hurricanes form?
According to the experts at NASA this is how a hurricane forms:
“Tropical cyclones are like giant engines that use warm, moist air as fuel. That is why they form only over warm ocean waters near the equator… As the storm system rotates faster and faster, an eye forms in the center. It is very calm and clear in the eye, with very low air pressure.”
NASA made this diagram to help us understand how it works.
As the warm moist air rises, it comes into contact with the descending low-pressure air system. The cycle then advances in size and speed as more warm moist air rises into a larger low-pressure front.
While the science behind the storm is amazing, the effects are devastating.
Jennifer Lowery recalls:
“I had never witnessed that level of destruction or devastation before. The eye of the storm hit around 10:30 pm, so most of the guests (including myself) were sheltered in the hotel ballroom. What made this storm unique (and the reason it caught the Southern Baja Peninsula so off guard) was the fact that it rapidly intensified and changed course. It was originally forecast to head West and weaken as it went out to sea, but instead, it made an almost 90-degree turn and headed directly for Cabo San Lucas as a Category 4.”
Hurricanes are not something to take lightly.
How do you prepare for a Hurricane?
The two most important things you can do for a hurricane, or any storm, are the following:
1. Have a Plan and Pack
An emergency action plan is essential to preparation safety. Read more here for how to develop a plan! For a free emergency plan template download our Storm EAP here.
An emergency pack not only can make you significantly more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation but it could also save your life.
2. Have Proper Insurance
We mentioned in another post, that in 2018 over $1.5 billion in damages were caused to non-insured residents. While the storm may not blow down your house, NOAA cautions that post-storm flooding can be worse than the actual event. Some insurance policies have specific nuances that may cover the immediate effects of an "Act of God" but not the post effects. It is important to talk with your provider to verify you have coverage that actually insures the full effects of a storm.
If you have any specific questions or comments about your experience or situation please leave us a comment or message us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!