Hurricanes: A Tropical Cyclone
By: Anna Praiswater

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a type of severe tropical storm or tropical cyclone that forms in the southern parts of the Atlantic Ocean Gulf of Mexico, eastern Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. A typical cyclone isn't alone, it travels with thunderstorms. Hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise direction around the eye of the storm in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. The eye or the center of the storm is the calmest part, with only light winds and fair weather. When hurricanes come onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds and large waves can do a serious amount of damage to buildings, trees and cars.

How are Hurricanes Formed?

Hurricanes form over warm ocean water of 80°F or warmer. The atmosphere must cool off very quickly the higher you go. Also, the wind has to be blowing in the same direction and at the same speed to force the air up from the surface of the ocean. Winds move outward and above the storm allowing the air below it to rise. Usually, hurricanes form between 5 to 15 degrees latitude north and south of the equator. Hurricanes need the Coriolis Force is to make the hurricane spin and when it is by the equator it becomes weak, so hurricanes never form near the equator.

How are Hurricanes Classified?

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed. The scale estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes that Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. Although, Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, and still require preventative measures. In the western North Pacific, the term "super typhoon" is used only for tropical cyclones with sustained winds exceeding 150 mph.

What Should I do in Case of a Hurricane?

To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. Know your surroundings, learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted. Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you. Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate. Make plans to secure your property:  Install a generator for emergencies. If in a high-rise building, when high winds are present, be prepared to take shelter on a lower floor because wind conditions increase with height, and in a small interior room without windows. When flooding may be occuring, be prepared to take shelter on a floor safely above the flooding and wave effects.

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