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Hurricane Facts

A hurricane is a dangerous tropical storm with strong winds and lots of rain or high waves that are pushed ashore by the storm’s winds.

Their movement is caused by warm water coming into contact with cool water; hence, the name of the climate category hurricanes are placed in.

Hurricanes only happen in tropical areas where there is an ocean or sea.

Wind Speed

Tropical Storms have wind speeds of 100-150 kilometers per hour and sometimes stronger; they can last for days and do not produce much rain, unlike most major storms. Generally, the stronger the storm, the larger the cloud diameter, and the more rain is expected, which gives the region of land that is adjacent to the coast the name of “rain belt.” A typical hurricane produces about 1 to 3 millimeters (0.04 – 0.07 inches) of rain in a 24-hour period.

Hurricanes always are described in terms of the category’ or wind speed, and sometimes the name of the storm itself. Hurricanes that have wind speeds of 180-200 kilometers per hour are known as hurricanes of category 4 or higher.

The most famous hurricanes of all time are the Hurricane Wilma, which struck Florida on October 26, 2005, and Hurricane Katrina that struck New Orleans on August 29, 2005.

The category 4 storm made landfall in New Orleans on Monday, August 29, 2005, bringing catastrophic flooding, and three-hundred thirty thousand residents were displaced. Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, was rated a Category 3 hurricane before it passed over the coast of Mississippi.

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Earliest Recorded Hurricanes

One of the earliest recorded hurricanes was a storm that struck Antarctica on June 22, 1775.

Later on, the Federal Weather Service found that Tropical Depression Thirty-two made landfall on June 21, 1842, near Pensacola, Florida, then moved north and gradually began to dissipate, reaching Galveston, Texas on June 29.

That is the earliest tropical cyclone recorded, and it was the only one to strike a place in the United States.

The first recorded hurricane on record in Alaska was in 1911 when Storm Johnston struck southeastern Alaska.

This recent analysis of hurricane activity throughout the world found that although there were stronger hurricanes in the past, the frequency of intense hurricanes has fallen to their lowest point on record.

Scientists say that global warming has altered the water on Earth’s surface and that this has resulted in the formation of intense hurricanes and tropical storms that can produce record rainfall.

Their study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change. “The world will be stuck with these powerful hurricanes and tropical storms for a long time,” says Professor Nina Boden, from the University of East Anglia, who led the research. “Our climate system is undergoing a major change, which is predicted to have significant effects on the world.”

In the period 1981-2010, global temperatures have increased by about 0.7C. Between 1990 and 2006, the average global sea level rose by 3.2 mm per year. By 2012, this had increased to 6.2mm per year. If this trend continues, the sea level would rise by more than 80cm by 2100.

This would produce considerable problems for coastal cities and large islands, such as New York and Miami.

The study looked at the water that was once in the southern hemisphere’s upper mid-latitudes. But between 2003 and 2008, it moved north into the North Atlantic, eventually making its way to the United States.

Faster than the wind

Hurricane Hugo took place in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on August 24, 1989.

In most of the world, conditions are warm, wet and stormy enough that tropical cyclone-strength winds can sometimes be felt in the city, even as far away as 50 miles.

But Hugo’s position right off the U.S. East Coast made it as dangerous as anything experienced for many years.

The intense winds and rains produced by hurricanes are great at keeping these storms off the U.S. mainland. The amount of water displaced from the ocean by a hurricane makes it possible for storm surge protection. When a hurricane approaches land, the strength of the winds can push those high winds to tornado-like speeds, which is dangerous to anything close to the center of the storm.

The main effect of Hurricane Irma was wind damage on the Florida Keys that is currently affecting millions of homes in and around Miami. Hurricane Irma knocked out all of the power to the Keys as a massive storm surge hit the U.S. territory, a fate likely to be shared with hundreds of thousands of others as the water rises in the area.

Though it was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm, Hurricane Irma brought massive storm surge surges to the North Carolina coast and southern Virginia

How hurricanes form

Hurricanes form when warm water from the ocean (at least 80 degrees F) generates energy to make warm, moist air rise higher in the atmosphere. The warmth and moisture in the air is called humidity.

When this air gets mixed with the winds blowing across the ocean, it pushes it up on top of the clouds to make larger and more dangerous storm clouds.

Slower or lighter winds around the storm push or steer the hurricane. These winds make the hurricane swirl in a clockwise direction if the storm is in the Southern Hemisphere and in a counter-clockwise direction if the storm is in the Northern Hemisphere.

Hurricanes are large storms—you might even say they are giant-sized. How big are they?

The eye or center of the hurricane is usually about 30 miles in diameter. Some areas small as 2 miles in diameter, but others are as big as 100 miles in diameter.

Speaking of the eye of the hurricane…the eye of the hurricane, which is the very center or core of the hurricane is calm. No rain, no wind—just warm, moist air.

What happens when a hurricane is formed

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Sometimes hurricanes form and fall apart without anyone but weather experts knowing about it. This is because some hurricanes happen in the middle of the ocean or in places far away from any land, so they are not dangerous to anyone.

Other hurricanes, however, can be very dangerous; destroying land, buildings, and killing lots of people. The winds from the hurricane are dangerous, but they are not the only dangerous thing about a hurricane.

A lot of the damage from a hurricane happens because of the storm surge. The storm surge is the walls of water the winds of the hurricane blows onto the shore.

The powerful force of the water knocks down everything in its path and the amount of water causes flooding.

How Big, How Fast, and How Far

Hurricanes can be massive—some are as big as 600 miles wide. The winds of a hurricane blow at speeds that range from 75 miles per hour to 200 miles per hour. How fast the winds of a hurricane blow tell weather experts how dangerous it is. Most hurricanes travel at speeds of 10 to 20 miles an hour and hold together for several weeks before falling apart.

The closer a hurricane gets to the shore, the weaker it gets. In fact, some hurricanes get so weak and so much smaller by the time they get to land that they aren’t even hurricanes anymore. They are what weather experts call tropical storms or tropical depressions.

Other names for hurricanes

Hurricanes are also known as typhoons and cyclones. There really is no difference between a hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone.

They are simply called by different names depending on where you live.

The Worst Hurricanes in History

Hurricanes have killed many people throughout history, but two of the most serious and dangerous hurricanes are the hurricane in Bangladesh that killed 300,000 people in 1970 and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005. Hurricane Katrina killed almost 2,000 people and wiped out 80% of this large and major city in the United States.

Storms with winds of 160 kilometers per hour are considered hurricanes. A Category 5 hurricane (category 5 is the most destructive on Earth) is composed of winds as powerful as 180 km per hour. These can break windows and cause intense shaking. They can completely crush buildings and cause much more damage than a Category 3 hurricane.

The Category 5 category in Bangladesh is equivalent to a storm with winds of 120 km per hour. However, Hurricane Katrina was much stronger than the other three strongest hurricanes.

Hurricane Katrina struck land at dawn on Tuesday, August 29, 2005. It was on its fourth day of very strong storms when Katrina made landfall.

Its winds initially reached 140 km per hour. To add to the horror, its winds tore through the metropolis of New Orleans, Louisiana. During its death throes, Katrina forced it to change its track to the north and to sea in order to maintain a course for the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The sheer size of the hurricane was something of a surprise as Louisiana itself is comparatively small. Texas, by comparison, is more than 8 times as large. Louisiana in fact is the most heavily populated state in the US.

Why Hurricanes Have Names

No one really knows why hurricanes have names, but the National Weather Bureau in the United States started naming hurricanes in 1952. In 1953, they started giving them women’s names. In the 1970’s they started using both men’s and women’s names.

By the 1980s hurricanes in the United States started getting their own nicknames. A San Francisco reporter once wrote about a small storm called Coola, which was named after an African mammal.

I wonder if Hurricane Richard, which hit Florida and the Carolinas in 1986, had a nickname. Of course, the exact nature of the nickname for this storm are not known, but here are a few possibilities: Catala ‏(Melanotaenia) ‏is also Latin for “beautiful woman,” referring to the damage caused to property and businesses.

It could also be a reference to Catala (Cataract) a micro-meteorological term used to describe large changes in a tropical storm’s winds.

NOTE: If a hurricane does major damage, the name is retired and is never used again.