Understanding hurricanes provides better safety options ahead of their arrival
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.