A hurricane is a tropical
storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of 74 miles per hour or more.
The eye of a storm is usually 20-30 miles wide and may extend over 400 miles.
The dangers of a storm include torrential rains, high winds and storm surges.
A hurricane can last for 2 weeks or more over open water and can run a path across the
entire length of the Eastern Seaboard.
The 74 to 160 mile per hour winds of a hurricane can
extend inland for hundreds of miles. Hurricanes can spawn tornadoes, which add to the
destructiveness of the storm. Floods and flash floods generated by torrential rains also
cause damage and loss of life. Following a hurricane, inland streams and rivers can flood
and trigger landslides.
When a hurricane watch is issued, the best response is to
protect your property by boarding up windows, bringing in outside items, and being
prepared to evacuate the areas as soon as officials so advise.
Even more dangerous than the high winds of a hurricane is
the storm surge-- a dome of ocean water that can be 20 feet at its peak and 50 to 100
miles wide. The surge can devastate coastal communities as it sweeps ashore. Nine out of
10 hurricane fatalities are attributable to the storm surge.
The Primary Hazards of a Hurricane are Storm Surge, High
Winds, Debris, Tornadoes and Rain/Flooding.
Conditions Which Must Be Present
Warm temperatures over the Ocean
Moist environment (precipitation)
Tropical wind patterns over the equator
Statistics of Storms
On average, 100 tropical disturbances
develop each year between May and November over the Atlantic Ocean. Half
of these begin over Africa near the Cape Verde Islands.
About 25 of these disturbances develop into tropical depressions.
Out of these 25 tropical depressions, 10 become tropical storms.
Out of these remaining 10 storms, only 6 become hurricanes.
Of these 6 hurricanes, 2 are likely to strike the coast of the United
The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and ends November 30 of each
An "early" hurricane occurs in first three months of season,
i.e. June - August while a "late" hurricane occurs in the last
three months of the season, i.e. September - November.
Historically, the most active time for hurricane development is mid-August
The winter hurricane threat is virtually non-existent. Since 1886, only 3
hurricanes have been officially recorded during the month of December and
only 1 during the month of January.
Strength and Intensity
The strongest hurricane recorded was the Florida Keys Storm of 1935. 500
people killed from the Category 5 storm.
The largest storms recorded were the Category 5 Labor Day Storm of 1935,
which killed 400 in Florida and Hurricane Camille that hit Louisiana and
Mississippi in 1969. Camille caused a 25-foot storm surge, killed 256 and
caused flooding all the way to New England.
In general, hurricanes lose about 1/2 of their intensity in the 12 hours
Hugo, which hit North and South Carolina in 1989 had a 20 foot storm surge
and caused damages in the amount of $7 million.
Storm surge, the raising of the ocean water along with the storm tide, is
the leading killing element during hurricanes.
The deadliest hurricane in U.S. history was at Galveston Island, Texas
storm of 1900, estimated to be a Category 4 storm. This storm claimed more
than 6,000 deaths and is noted as the worst natural disaster in our
country's history. The storm surge was 16 feet.
Eighteen of the 54 direct deaths attributed to Hurricane Andrew occurred
during the recovery phase. Of those identified, eight were stress-induced
heart attacks, three were either people falling in damaged buildings or
hit by debris while cleaning up, and two were children who died in fires
in damaged homes.
Nationwide, hurricanes annually account for an average of 17 deaths while
flooding deaths average 147 per year.
The costliest hurricane recorded was Hurricane Andrew, August 1992. It was
also the third strongest storm to hit the United States. It hit both the
States of Florida and Louisiana. Estimates of damage are above $25
In less than a 4-week period in 1992, two major hurricanes hit the United
States leaving an unprecedented array of devastation. First Hurricane
Andrew pounded Florida and Louisiana to become the most expensive natural
disaster in U.S. history with damage estimates in the range of $15 billion
to $30 billion. Then 3 weeks later, Hurricane Iniki affected three
Hawaiian Islands resulting in over $1 billion in damage, particularly in
In 1996, the costs associated with damages in the United States was over
$3.5 billion. This season included Hurricane Bertha and Fran, which both
hit the State of North Carolina.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit South Dade County, where the population is
approximately 350,000. If it had hit 20 miles north, it would have hit
Miami and affected over 1.6 million people.
Hurricane winds in the Northern Hemisphere circulate in a counterclockwise
motion around the hurricane's center or "eye," while hurricane
winds in the Southern Hemisphere circulate clockwise. Natural phenomena,
which affect a storm, include temperature of the water, the gulfstream,
and steering wind currents.
The naming of storm has a unique history. Early on, storms were named for
the location they hit or a particular day they made landfall, i.e. the
Labor Day Hurricane. In 1950, the first Hurricane name was Easy that hit
the coast of Florida. In 1953, the Department of Defense started the named
of hurricanes by a numeric naming, i.e. Able, Baker, Charlie, etc. After
three years, this was abandoned and alphabetical naming of storms using
female names was implemented.
Hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Indian Ocean,
Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.
The National Weather Service's Tropical Prediction Center (National
Hurricane Center) tracks storms during the hurricane season. Historically,
they have tracked up to 76 systems during a season. Most hurricanes travel
from Cape Verde, Africa but only 1 of 10 systems becomes a named tropical
Tracking the Storm
The NWS uses the following devices to track storms:
1.Photography every 30 minutes from weather satellites 22,000 miles above
2.Aircraft reconnaissance which give detailed cross sectional data from
inside the hurricane; and 3.land-based radar which can give information on
the storm from 100-200 miles off the coast.
Aircraft reconnaissance for hurricanes are usually handled by the 53rd
Weather Reconnaissance Squadron which are known commonly as the
Florida is the most hurricane prone state in the United States with the
southeast being the most at risk. This state being a peninsula has the
potential of having hurricanes strike from the Atlantic or the Gulf.
Though busy years spark our attention, 1983 had only 4 named storms yet
Hurricane Alicia hit Galveston, Texas while in 1992, there were only 6
named storms but Hurricane Andrew hit Florida and Louisiana. The average
number of storms is probably overstated since it does not take in effect
the intensity of the storms which exist and make landfall.
From Texas to Maine, over 44 million people reside in coastal counties and
barrier islands. Weekends and holidays can increase this number from
10-100% with tourists.
To evacuate people roads must be in-place to handle mass evacuations. The
more people who live in coastal areas, without new roads, the more
difficult it is to evacuate. It takes longer to evacuate today than it did
10 years ago.
It takes over 30 hours to safely evacuate the coastal cities of Galveston,
Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Key West, Florida and Ocean City, Maryland.