A Complete and Exhaustive Guide to Hurricanes – part one
A bit of history first…hurricanes derive their name from the Caribbean God of Evil known as Hurican and to the old mariners a hurricane must have appeared like some serious evil being churned from the depths of the ocean. Hurricanes cause severe damage on land and at the same time they are a deadly scare for ocean-going vessels.
Many lives have been lost and damage done because of inaccurate forecasting. With technological development there is a far greater awareness of how a hurricane forms and functions. Today we have a better idea of the structure of a hurricane, its movements, etc.
This information helps us in issuing relevant storm warnings early thereby preventing loss of life and property. At sea, it enables authorities to route ships along safe passages and avoid the hurricane zones at particular times of the year.
A hurricane is born in tropical waters. A tropical wave is born of the trade winds off the coast of Africa. In the hurricane season, around 60 such waves make their way into the tropical North Atlantic. It is here that there are chances of a tropical cyclone forming.
A tropical disturbance is a weather system that can be around 300 miles in diameter; these can migrate in any direction and preserve their form and momentum for around 24 hours or more.
A tropicaldisturbancecandevelopinto a tropicaldepression and this can quickly become a tropical cyclone when wind speeds are in a range of 34 knots to 63 knots. When the wind speeds of such systems exceed 64 knots, it gets classified as a hurricane. In the Pacific region, such a system is called a typhoon and is termed a cyclone in the Indian Ocean.
Hurricanes are categorized by the Saffir-Simpson scale according to their wind speeds. The scale categorizes the storms from one to five in increasing order. It should not be assumed that a Category One storm will always cause less damage than a Category Five storm. A lot depends on the angle at which the storm approaches, the situation of the tide, the area where the hurricane makes landfall, etc.
Often hurricanes that have low wind speeds lead to far severe storms and floods. A hurricane with a wind speed of 64 – 82 knots is a category one hurricane; it is capable of damaging unanchored mobile homes, shrubs, trees, cause coastal flooding. It does not do any great damage to building structures.
A category two hurricane can touch wind speeds of around 83 – 95 knots. At this speed it is severe enough to damage roofing material, doors, and windows. Coastal and inland vegetation suffers. Unprotected vessels in piers can be damaged.
A hurricane that arrives with wind speeds of 93 – 113 knots is a category three hurricane and is powerful enough to destroy mobile homes, cause structural damage to buildings, cause large scale coastal and inland flooding, and bring heavy rains with it.
A category four hurricane arrives with wind speeds of 114 – 135 knots and cause severe beach erosion in coastal areas; roofing of small homes can fail completely. Flooding can occur well inland leading to landslides and flash floods. Serious damage to fresh-water and marine flora and fauna.
When wind speeds exceed 135 knots we have a category five hurricane on our hands; this one can cause not just roof failure but complete structural failure of several buildings, particularly the smaller structures. There is serious inland flooding and the lower floors of buildings in the coastal areas can get badly flooded.
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