Threats from Hurricanes

Cold Front Warm Front Hurricane Felix 2007


A hurricane’s deadly forces The combination of water and wind can have devastating impacts on nature and man (click here to find out more). Learn what these mortal features can do and how to survive them.Storm Tides and WavesStorm surge is simply the growth in water which floods the coast as water is pushed onshore by strong winds, and to a much lesser degree very low pressure. It is important to know the tides of the coastal area where you are located. For example, many locations on the Gulf coast have quite small tidal ranges, whereas locations on the U.S. east coast have large tidal ranges. It makes a substantial difference on the impacts to the coast if a hurricane moves ashore through a low or high tide in a location where the tidal range is large. Today, inland flood causes the biggest loss of life. Before, when hurricane forecasting technology was much less sophisticated, storm surge was the motive for most deaths. It’s best to leave a construction that could be affected by the storm wave of a hurricane. The force from sea water is extremely powerful and can destroy a home easily. High waves carry the debris from destroyed buildings that are on the shore that batter other structures further inland. Even so, it’s best not to”ride out” a hurricane and evacuate to a safer place.Hurricanes create strong sustained winds which have the capability of destroying structures and toppling trees and power lines. The Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale gives an estimate on the kind of wind damage that can be expected with various categories of hurricanes. A major hurricane is thought to be a category 3 or higher. Strong winds can blow in garage doors, break windows, or lift roofs from homes. Make certain that you have shutters or plywood to cover windows properly during a hurricane. Also, know how structurally sound your roof and garage doors are so that they will not fail in case of high winds. The safest place to stay is in the basement to protect you and your loved ones from high winds. If you are in a flood zone, evacuate to higher ground. If you don’t have a basement, find a small room on the lowest floor with no windows near the center of the house to stay.TornadoesTornadoes are many times associated with land falling tropical cyclones. Most of the tornadoes occur within 24 hours of land fall, although it’s potential for tornadoes to still happen a couple of days later still associated with the circulation. The most significant hurricane associated tornado outbreak on record occurred with Hurricane Ivan in 2004 with 123 tornadoes. Contrary to their Midwest cousins, tornadoes on average are weaker in hurricanes. There’s usually a weaker signature on radar and hail nearly never accompanies them. Stronger land falling hurricanes have a greater potential to create tornadoes than poorer ones. Tornadoes occur with land falling hurricanes as the hurricane moves over land and encounters greater low level friction from the land. This slows the wind at the surface greater than higher aloft, adding to vertical wind shear. It is this increase in wind shear that sets up an environment favorable for tornado development. Follow the same safety guidelines for high winds to protect you and your family from the harmful effects of tornadoes.FloodingAll hurricanes don’t produce severe flooding. There are lots of factors that contribute to the flood potential of a hurricane or weaker tropical cyclone. The most important factor is the rate of motion. If a tropical cyclone moves into a region where steering currents from the winds aloft are weak, very heavy rain may result. It is possible for the tropical cyclone to be almost stationary for days resulting in very heavy rainfall amounts of 40 to 50 inches or more. Rainfall amounts are also affected by the terrain of a location. Mountains cause an added lift to occur, enhancing rainfall rates on the windward slopes. The surrounding environment where the hurricane forms is another consideration. If a hurricane forms in the deep tropics, it usually can tap a deeper source of deep layered moisture. Hurricanes that form in higher latitudes have a greater prospect of entraining dry air from mid latitude weather systems limiting moisture. When a tropical cyclone is approaching, understand the possibility of heavy rainfall to make flooding or flash flooding where you live. SummaryA hurricane has the potential to cause widespread damage and loss of life. The best way to endure the effects of a hurricane is by staying informed. For more on how to prepare before a storm strikes, check’s article on hurricane preparedness.

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