Un­der­stand­ing hur­ri­canes pro­vides bet­ter safety op­tions ahead of their arrival

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - Stan­dard Jour­nal Cor­re­spon­dent Sean Wil­liams con­tributed to this report. From staff re­ports

The At­lantic Hur­ri­cane sea­son-rang­ing from June to Novem­ber- ap­proached 2017 with raised fists and re­lent­less tenac­ity that is sure to cause trou­ble for an­other 2 months. Big name storms like Hur­ri­cane Har­vey and Hur­ri­cane Irma have claimed count­less lives, re­sulted in bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­ages, and left mil­lions with­out power.

World­wide hur­ri­cane at­ten­tion has raised end­less ques­tions, and be­ing in­formed is the best shield against nat­u­ral disas­ter.

A com­mon mis­con­cep­tion about hur­ri­canes stems from the idea that all ocean based storms are hur­ri­canes. Un­der­stand­ing the sever­ity of a storm- as well as your lo­ca­tion in ref­er­ence to the storm- is piv­otal when gain­ing a head start on pro­tec­tion. In the words of me­te­o­rol­o­gist Brad Plumer, “Hur­ri­canes are storms with vi­o­lent winds clock­ing in over 74 mph; Trop­i­cal storms are what we call hur­ri­canes with winds un­der 74 mph.”

Irma down­graded to a trop­i­cal storm be­fore its whiplash in­ter­acted with Polk, and the county’s North­west lo­ca­tion meant cit­i­zens had lit­tle need to pack their bags or raid stores for bread and wa­ter bot­tles.

If the storm didn’t con­tinue to dwin­dle, how­ever, cit­i­zens may have looked into head­ing north. Per­sonal eval­u­a­tion aside, cit­i­zens should al­ways be mind­ful of author­ity ad­vice, and be ready to evac­u­ate if urged to do so. Both hur­ri­canes and trop­i­cal storms can be dev­as­tat­ing.

The Saf­fir-Simp­son Hur­ri­cane Wind Scale high­lights the dif­fer­ent classes and sever­ity of hur­ri­canes.

A cat­e­gory 1 hur­ri­cane fea­tures wind speeds of 74-95 mph and is ex­pected to pro­duce “very dan­ger­ous winds that will pro­duce some dam­age,” ac­cord­ing to the scale.

Downed power lines and tree branches are ex­pected to lit­ter the ground, and houses could see roof, shin­gle, and gut­ter dam­ages.

A cat­e­gory 2 hur­ri­cane will have wind speeds of 96-110 mph and is ex­pected to pro­duce “ex­tremely dan­ger­ous wings that will cause ex­ces­sive dam­age.”

Near total power loss is ex­pected for a level 2 hur­ri­cane, and shal­lowly rooted trees are ex­pected to cover roads. Homes are in much big­ger risks of dam­age.

A cat­e­gory 3 hur­ri­cane hits wind speeds of 111-129 mph and cre­ates “dev­as­tat­ing dam­age.” Elec­tric­ity and wa­ter is ex­pected to be un­avail­able for sev­eral days if not weeks and nu­mer­ous trees are ex­pected to be found in roads.

Houses are ex­pected to re­ceive ma­jor dam­age.

A cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane brings wind speeds of 130-156 mph that re­sult in “cat­a­strophic dev­as­ta­tion.”

Much of the area hit by a cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane will be un­in­hab­it­able for weeks or months, downed power lines and trees will cut peo­ple off from each other, and power will be out for long pe­ri­ods of time.

A cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane spon­sors winds of 157 mph or higher bring­ing mass de­struc­tion.

The af­fected area will be un- in­hab­it­able for weeks or months and a high per­cent­age of homes will be de­stroyed. Total de­struc­tion was seen in the path of Hur­ri­cane Irma when the strength of the storm reached a cat­e­gory 5, with winds up­ward of 185 mph bat­ter­ing the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands and oth­ers in the Caribbean.

Hur­ri­cane nam­ing is an­other as­pect of hur­ri­cane sea­son that can leave cit­i­zens scratch­ing their heads. Names like Irma, Katrina, Jose, or Har­vey don’t al­lude to the sever­ity of a storm, but the names of se­vere storms are struck from the pool of po­ten­tial hur­ri­cane names out of re­spect for the vic­tims.

The World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion picks names that are con­cise and sim­ple to pro­nounce for the “ex­change of de­tailed storm info be­tween hun­dreds of widely scat­tered sta­tions, coastal bases and ships at sea,” ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tist Tia Ghose. Hur­ri­canes with light­hearted, hu­mor­ous names can have the same dev­as­tat­ing im­pact as Katrina or Har­vey.

The un­used names for 2017’s hur­ri­cane sea­son are Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophe­lia, Phillippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, and Whit­ney.

Trop­i­cal storms and hur­ri­canes are ex­clu­sive to the warmer months be­cause “warm ocean wa­ter heats the air above be­fore ris­ing warm air evap­o­rates and starts to spin. The air then cools and con­denses to form a cu­mu­lonim­bus cloud and an in­tense low pres­sure sucks in caus­ing very strong winds,” writes Plumer.

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