Have you ever experienced a hurricane? Well, we have!
As many of you know, we live in Florida. And when you live in Florida, there are some things you need to get used to; seeing weird stuff in Walmart at 1 in the morning, alligators walking along the road… or in your yard, and not being able to go outside 8-9 months months of the year because it’s 100 degrees with 100% humidity. You also have to get used to hurricanes.
To many Floridians, a hurricane is more of a hassle rather than a catastrophic event. It’s not that we don’t take them seriously, it’s just that we’ve been through it so many times we know know the routine by now.
With that in mind, this is 25 things you may not know about hurricanes
40% Hit Florida
Yeah, more good news for the “sunshine state.” It is estimated that 40% of all hurricanes hit Florida. The storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean are spawned by winds blowing off the African west coast.
Those winds pick up the warm moisture along the equator and move toward and through the Caribbean islands, picking up speed as they move. Because Florida is near those islands, it is susceptible to frequent hurricane activity.
74 Mile per Hour Winds
For a storm to achieve hurricane status, it must have winds of at least 74 mile per hour. Anything below 74 is considered a tropical storm. As soon as it hits 74, it is officially a hurricane
The National Weather Service has not always named hurricanes. They didn’t start doing this until 1953. At that time, only traditionally female names were given to hurricanes. They continued doing this until 1978.
From that point forward, the names have included both traditionally male or female names.
The Name Game
So, where do those names come from? The World Meteorological Society creates the lists. There are six different lists that get rotated each year. Each list has 26 names, one for each letter of the alphabet.
Quickly, can you think of six names that start with the letter X?
Just kidding. You don’t have to. The list doesn’t use the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z.
If a hurricane is especially destructive, the name will be retired. So far, there have been 93 names retired.
The first name retired was “Carol,” a 1954 Class 3 storm that caused $460 million in damages and 60 lives. The newest member of the retired names list will be Ian.
The Storm Within the Storm
When you see weather forecasts about hurricanes, you always see the long bands swirling around the eye of the storm. Those “rain bands,” as they are called, are actually long lines of thunderstorms with hurricane-force winds.
These bands can range anywhere from a few to dozens of miles wide. The length of the bands will sometimes stretch from approximately 50 to 300 miles.
The Right Side
As a hurricane approaches, it is much better to be on the left side of the storm’s eye. The right side carries with it the largest storm bands, which create the heaviest winds, most severe thunderstorms, and largest storm surges.
It is also on the right side of the storm that has the greatest chance of tornadoes.
Hurricane Katrina Was the Costliest Hurricane Ever.
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest hurricane of all time. Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005. Many people lost homes and lives to Katrina. The estimated cost of the damages done by this hurricane was 108 billion dollars.
To this day, some of the damage to New Orleans remains. And no one who was alive to see it will ever forget the images of the Superdome trying to house thousands who lost everything.
A Crafty Killer
When news outlets cover a hurricane, they always show weather reporters out in conditions that they should be nowhere near (I’m looking at you, Jim Cantori). Trees sway, street signs shake back and forth, tree branches and limbs get blown down the street, roofs are ripped off of buildings… you’ve seen it.
You would think that most of the people who die during a hurricane do so because of all of this destruction. But no. Most deaths that occur during a hurricane are from drowning. The most dangerous thing about hurricanes is the storm surge.
The storm surge is a huge wall of water that the winds bring on shore that sometimes measures as high as 12 to 18 feet and covers nearly a 100-mile stretch of the coast.
A Storm by Any Other Name
A hurricane is actually a tropical cyclone. If it occurs in the Atlantic or the North Pacific Ocean, it is called a hurricane. If they form in the North Pacific, they are called typhoons. If it spins in the South Pacific or Indian Ocean, they are cyclones.
A hurricane is moving through the water, and all of the speed is equal from sea level to the uppermost part of the storm.
When those bands move over land, the winds that stay elevated continue to move at the same speed. The winds close to the ground begin to interact with buildings, hills, etc. This causes friction.
The higher winds are essentially pulling the lower ones along. The two forces moving at different speeds cause the tornado to form.
The Watch and The Warning
When a hurricane is being tracked by the National Weather Service, updates will be given every 12 hours. The NWS uses several different computer models to predict where each storm is headed. When landfall is expected, tracking updates will be given every hour.
If a hurricane is expected within 36 hours, all areas within its path are put on a hurricane watch. If the storm is expected within 24 hours, a hurricane warning is issued.
The Cone of Doom
When hurricane models are shown in the media, you can see the general expected path of the storm as it continues to form, strengthen, and move toward land. This is called the “Cone of Uncertainty.”
What the cone shows is where the storm is expected to go, depending on how strong it is and how fast it moves. The cone takes other factors into account, such as other weather conditions that affect the storm’s movement.
The Hurricane Frequency
There are usually an average of 10 hurricanes per year. Of those, maybe 4 will make landfall. But there are exceptions. In 1933, there were 21 named storms. That record was almost surpassed in 1995, when there were 19. But 1933’s record was smashed in 2005.
That year saw 28 named storms. Since they ran out of names, they began using the Greek alphabet. Those storms were called Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, and Zeta.
The Deadliest Ever
The deadliest hurricane to ever make landfall in the US happened in 1900. It was a Category 4 hurricane that slammed into Galveston, Texas, on September 8. Approximately 8,000 people died, and the island was completely destroyed.
Those that Completed the Journey
Obviously, a category 5 hurricane is the most intense storm out there. But how many Cat 5 hurricanes have made landfall? That number may be smaller than you think.
To date, only four Category 5 hurricanes have hit the US. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Camille (1962), Andrew (1992), and Michael (2018) None of these are the most destructive or deadliest storms on record.
It's Time to Party!
Believe it or not, some people, whether they are unable or simply unwilling, choose to stay and ride out the storm. People in some areas, especially in Florida, have seen so many hurricanes in their lifetimes that they feel like they know how to prepare and refuse to evacuate.
This has given way to what are referred to as “hurricane parties.” Groups of friends get together, have many cocktails, and have fun together while the storm rages outside.
The southeastern major grocery chain Publix even sells “hurricane party cakes” for these occasions!
On a Crash Course
There have been times when two hurricanes formed in the same region. On these occasions, the two storms can crash into each other! Well, maybe not exactly crash.
What happens is that when they get close enough, the storms start to orbit each other until the larger one absorbs the smaller. It’s incredibly difficult to project where this developing system will go until it is fully formed.
Andrew the Builder
Hurricane Andrew tore through South Florida in 1992 and brought billions of dollars’ worth of damage with it. Andrew was a Category 5 storm and was found to cause major damage wherever it made landfall.
The damage revealed the lax building codes and code enforcement in the state, as well as low construction standards during the 1980s and 1990s population surges. Until Andrew, local governments could set their own codes and choose whether or not to enforce them. This was changed.
The state of Florida now has among the strictest codes in the country. Houses along the coasts are now built to withstand the effects of hurricanes.
The Hurricane Hunters
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employs a group called the Hurricane Hunters. This team consists of trained pilots, navigators, meteorologists, scientists, and crew members in a specially fitted plane.
This crew flies through the eyewall and into the calmness of the eye. While doing so, it is taking readings to see how the storm is developing and doing research on thunderstorms, coastal erosion, and ocean winds, as well as other research projects.
The Name of the Beast
The word “hurricane” comes from the language of the Taino. These were the indigenous people of Florida and the Caribbean Islands. The word was Hurican, the Carib god of evil.
But that name wasn’t completely theirs. Their word comes from the Mayan god of wind, storm, and fire, whose name was Huracan. It was picked up by Spanish explorers, who continued using it, and over time, it became “hurricane.”
Hurricanes Have Class
Hurricanes are classified by their strength. The higher the wind speed, the higher the class. To be considered a hurricane, the storm must have winds of at least 74 mph. The classifications are as follows:
Class 1: 74-995 mph
Class 2: 96–1110 mph
Class 3: 111–130 mph
Class 4: 131–1155 mph
Class 5: 155+ mph
If you ever want to get an idea of the force of those winds, hold your arm out the window of your car as it moves at 70 mph down the highway. That’s not even a class 1!
Not of This World
The largest hurricane of all time that we know of is bigger than the entire planet Earth! Yes. Im serious.
Have you ever heard of the “Great Red Spot”? Look at pictures of Jupiter, and you can see it. That red spot below Jupiter’s equator is a hurricane. It produces wind speeds of approximately 268 mph.
If, as scientists believe, it is the same storm that has been observed since the 1600s, it would mean that this single hurricane has been happening for at least 357 years.
An Odd Observation
Hurricanes are frighteningly destructive and should always be taken seriously. In Florida, we know the drill. Category 1 or 2? It’s an afternoon rain shower. Category 3? Ok, we’re listening; anything higher, and we become vigilant.
The problem is that hurricanes’ paths change a lot. You may be in imminent danger one day and looking at a little rain the next. But here’s the annoying part…
Everybody freaks out! People think there could be a run on gas, so they take trucks with a dozen gas cans in the back and try to fill them all, which causes a run on gas! They think there won’t be any bottled water in the stores, so they go buy more water than they would use in a month, which makes the stores run out of water.
It’s just crazy…
In the Eye of the Storm
While the most dangerous part of a hurricane is the eye wall, the eye of the storm is peaceful. The eye of the storm usually ranges between 20 and 40 miles, depending on the size of the storm. If you’ve never experienced it, here’s what happens:
The storm rages around you, winds and rain are pounding, and then… nothing. The rain stops. The winds, if there are any, are calm. It’s peaceful. At the same time, its pretty frightening. You can go outside, survey some of the damage, and wait for the second half of the storm to hit.