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Hurricane 101: A Guide to Hurricane Terminology

Posted by Jimmy Hawley on Apr 20, 2018 8:00:00 AM

From late May to November, Southwest Florida residents must stay vigilant and prepared for hurricane season. There are many ways to be prepared for a hurricane, but one you might not have considered is educating yourself on the terminology that the media and weather authorities will use when speaking about a hurricane.

If you are new to the southwest Florida area, you might not have heard all these terms before and it’s important to understand what these terms mean so you’ll have a better understand the seriousness of the situation.


Hurricane Terminology #1: Location Terms

An evacuation zone is the area in which the hurricane may impact. If you live in an evacuation zone, the government and emergency management is telling you they will not be able to come in and help you once the storm has arrived if you stay in your home. They are advising you to take your family and pets and go to a safe area outside of the evacuation zone.

The storm surge is the “abnormal rise of the tide, over predicted tides, and can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas” according to the National Hurricane Center. Storm surge can have an impact on what areas are deemed evacuation zones as well. If the storm surge is predicted to coincide with normal high tide, there can be even greater damage to land and property, and a high risk for loss of life.

Popular Science says that landfall can be a misleading term. A hurricane makes landfall when the eye of the storm comes onto land, and then the storm is no longer over the ocean and moving inland. Where a hurricane makes landfall can be the most impacted area.

However, since the eyewall of a storm is the most dangerous part of a hurricane, even if a hurricane’s eye does not go over land, the area where the eyewall hits has the most damaging impact. When a hurricane’s eye does not make landfall, but the eyewall does, it is called a direct hit.

Areas impacted by a hurricane will have either a hurricane watch or a hurricane warning. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible in a certain area, while a hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected in a certain area. Weather predicting is not an exact science, and a hurricane watch and warning should both be taken seriously. However, a hurricane warning means it is very likely you will be affected by a hurricane.

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Hurricane Terminology  #2: Formation Terms

The barometric pressure is very important in terms of the forming of a hurricane. The barometric pressure (the pressure exerted by the weight of the atmosphere) drops to very low levels at the ocean’s surface. This low pressure draws in moist ocean air and thunderstorms form around this area of low pressure.

These thunderstorms that are formed can then cause wind shears. These are bursts of air that come straight down to the ground at a very high rate of speed and then spread out over the ground. These are especially dangerous for aircrafts, so during a hurricane all flights out of the area will be cancelled. Wind shears can also be very damaging to property.

Hurricane Terminology #3: Parts of the Storm

The eye of the storm is at the very center of the hurricane. When a hurricane makes landfall, somewhere over the land the eye will pass. When this happens everything will get very calm. Emergency management will warn you not to go outside if you have not evacuated because the calm can pass unexpectedly and you won’t have time to find shelter before the storm picks up again.

The eye wall is the part of the storm that surrounds the calm eye of the storm. This area is the most deadly of all the parts of the hurricane. The winds are highest in the eye wall.

Feeder bands, or spiral bands, are outside of the eye wall. These are bands of storms that keep the hurricane filled with energy and moving. This is the largest part of the storm.

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Hurricane Terminology #4: Types of Hurricanes

Storms over the ocean typically start out as a tropical disturbance. These are storms that have little organized direction of wind patterns.

A tropical disturbance then grows into a tropical storm. This means that winds have gathered intensity and are over 39 mph.

Once a tropical storm has wind speeds over 74 mph, it is now considered a hurricane. Hurricane categories are from 1-5. They are based on their wind speeds according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Speed Scale.

  • Category 1 Hurricane: sustained winds of 74-95 mph
  • Category 2 Hurricane: sustained winds of 96-110 mph
  • Category 3 Hurricane: sustained winds of 111-129 mph
  • Category 4 Hurricane: sustained winds of 130-156 mph
  • Category 5 Hurricane: sustained winds of 157 mph or higher

A major hurricane is any hurricane from category 3 to category 5. These can produce catastrophic damages to property and major loss of life.

In Southwest Florida you can never be too prepared for hurricane season. Your family and loved ones are you first priority. Leave the protection of your property to Storm Solutions. Call us today for your free in-home estimate.

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