Emergency Preparedness: 37 Facts about Hurricanes
For the third week in National Preparedness Month, we’ll be focusing on hurricanes; the massive storm systems capable of inflicting incredible amounts of damage to both coastal and inland areas. Before we dive into what you should do to make sure your emergency preparedness plan is hurricane ready, we’d like to go over some fast facts about hurricanes.
Fun & Crazy Facts About Huricanes
- Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons are all the same and are so named based on where they originate. Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific storms are hurricanes. While “typhoons” occur in the Northwest Pacific and “cyclones” begin in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
- The name “hurricane” is derived from the name of the Carib Indians’ god of evil, “Huracan”.
- Hurricane “season” in the Atlantic begins on June 1st. In the Eastern pacific, it begins May 15th. Both end on November 30th.
- While 97% of hurricanes occur during the ‘season’, they can also form almost any time of year. The earliest date recorded was a storm that formed in the Atlantic Basin on March 7th, 1908.
- Each year, there are approximately 10 tropical storms that form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. About half of these storms will become actual hurricanes.
- Hurricanes lose strength as they move over land, so coastal regions are at most danger from hurricanes.
- 2005 was one of the most active hurricane seasons, with over 15 hurricanes taking form during the Atlantic season.
- 40% of the hurricanes that occur in the United States hit Florida.
- Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina are also hit frequently by hurricanes – though not as frequently as Florida.
- No hurricane has ever hit the US Pacific Coast. However, Mexico’s West Coast has been hit and these storms have impacted California.
- Hurricane warnings are issued when a hurricane is expected to arrive with 24 hours. A hurricane watch is issued when the storm is 24 – 36 hours away.
- Hurricanes start as tropical depressions, which is a low-pressure system with clouds and thunderstorms displaying a defined circulation pattern with sustained winds below 38 mph.
- Tropical storms display the cyclonic shape typical of hurricanes, though no ‘eye’ may be present. Their maximum sustained wind speed is between 39 – 73 mph.
- Hurricanes are so named once the cyclonic storm system has achieved sustainable wind speeds of 74 or more miles per hour.
- There are five categories to hurricanes based on the maximum measured wind speed:
- Category 5: 156+ mph
- Category 4: 131 -155 mph
- Category 3: 111 -130 mph
- Category 2: 96 – 110 mph
- Category 1: 74 – 95 mph
- Between the years 2000 – 2009, there were eight category 5 hurricanes to hit the U.S.
- The Southern Hemisphere typically experiences about half the number of hurricanes as the Northern Hemisphere each year.
- The direction the winds of the hurricane spin depend on where it originates. In the Southern Hemisphere spin clockwise while those in the Northern Hemisphere are counter-clockwise.
- The wind around the eye of a hurricane spin in the opposite direction of the main storm winds. These winds create the “eye wall”, the most destructive part of the storm.
- Hurricanes cannot form at the equator because they need the Coriolis force to spin. They prefer to follow a path that takes them away from the equator once they have formed.
- Hurricanes, in addition to generating incredibly powerful winds, are capable of dumping over 2.4 trillion gallons of rain in a single day.
- Hurricanes are the most lethal weather phenomena and kill more people than any other type of storm.
- Although deadly and destructive, hurricanes are an important part of the Earth’s weather system, moving hot tropic air toward the poles. By balancing temperatures and moisture, hurricanes prevent vast areas of the planet from being too hot to support human and animal life.
- Most hurricanes last approximately 10 days, but can stay formed as long as several weeks.
- In 1994, Hurricane/Typhoon John lasted 31 days – longer than any other hurricane in history. It passed through both the eastern and western parts of the Pacific Ocean, so it is referred to as both a hurricane and a typhoon.
- Hurricane Katrina (2005) was the most costly U.S. hurricane which caused $108 billion in damage. Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $50 billion in destruction and Hurricane Andrew (1992) caused over $45 billion worth of damage.
- The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is a giant, spinning storm is more than twice the size of earth. This gigantic hurricane has been swirling for over 600 years.
- The hurricane storm system can extend up to 50,000 feet in the sky and can be as wide as 600 miles.
- During a large hurricane, the storm releases the energy equivalent of 10 atomic bombs every second.
- Hurricanes cannot combine with one another; instead the storms will circle each other. This is referred to as the Fujiwhara effect.
- The deadliest hurricane in the US occurred in 1900 in Texas. Known as the Great Galveston Hurricane, over 8,000 people lost their lives during this category 4 storm.
- During the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Camille struck land with winds reaching 175 mph, making it the second strongest hurricane to strike land in the US.
- With sustained wind speeds of 185 mph, the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane is the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the U.S.
- In 1962, the US Government started Project Stormfury to weaken tropical cyclones by flying aircraft into the storm and seeding the clouds with silver iodide. The project closed officially in 1983 and was deemed a failure.
- Tropical Cyclone Olivia has the distinction of boasting the fastest recorded winds. The storm hit Australia on April 10, 1996, with wind gusts of 253 mph.
- Since the introduction of worldwide satellite coverage in 1970, China has been listed as the most hurricane or tropical cyclone –struck country. Followed by the Philippines and then Japan.
- The United States is ranked as the fifth most frequently hurricane-struck country.
After reading the facts above, we hope you have a much better understanding of the vast, powerful and destructive capabilities of hurricanes. Knowing what they are capable of, even if you don’t live in an area frequently impacted, you should still make sure your emergency preparedness plan covers hurricanes.
In our next post, we will talk specifically about what you can do before to prepare for a possible hurricane as we continue week 3 of National Preparedness Month. And don’t forget to join in and participate by visiting Ready.gov.