A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74mph or higher. Hurricanes have different names in different regions of the world and the season varies depending on hemisphere and location. In the Atlantic and Caribbean, Hurricane Season runs from June 1st to November 30th each year. Hurricanes are measured on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, with a category 1 being the smallest and a category 5 being the largest. Category 1 hurricanes will generally produce some damage, while category 5 hurricanes can be catastrophic. Before reaching hurricane status, rotating clouds over tropic and sub-tropic waters may be labeled as tropical depressions and tropical storms with wind speeds between 38-73 mph.
Hazards Associated with Hurricanes
When hurricanes make landfall, the storm surge and tide associated with the hurricane cause the largest amount of damage. A surge is a rise of water caused by hurricane winds; surges can move several miles inland causing flooding. A normal tide caused by astronomical patterns can be elevated when there is also a storm surge. A tide of 2-3 feet will become much larger with a surge and strong winds. The combination of a storm surge and tide will not only affect the coastal areas where a hurricane makes landfall, but will also move up bodies of water such as bays, estuaries, bayous, and rivers. Severe storm surge may also cause coastal erosion and dune destruction.
Hurricanes can also produce tornadoes, major winds, rip currents, and torrential rain causing flooding. Winds and tornadoes may produce harmful, fast-moving debris. Rip currents not only affect immediate coastal areas where a hurricane will make landfall, but can also affect coastal areas far up and down the shore. Rip currents generally pull swimmers away from the shore and out toward the ocean. Beaches will post yellow and red flags when there is a strong current to alert swimmers. Lastly, torrential rains can create flooding and flash flooding hundreds of miles inland from where a hurricane has made landfall. Flooding may be seen several days after a storm has passed as water makes its way down rivers and streams.
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For more information on hurricanes, visit the National Hurricane Center