Differences Between Tropical Storm vs. Hurricanes & How to Prepare

Posted by Jimmy Hawley on Feb 16, 2022 10:00:00 AM

If you’re a native or long-time resident of the Southwest Florida coast, you probably know a thing or two about tropical systems. But if you’re new to the area, or are planning to move to the Naples, Cape Coral, or Fort Myers area soon, you’ll want to brush up on tropical storms and hurricanes—specifically, how to prepare your home or business for these dangerous storms.

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

When the conditions are right in tropical waters, a closed wind system, called a tropical cyclone, can develop. If sustained wind speeds increase, the tropical cyclone grows into a tropical depression and is then classified as a tropical storm if sustained winds reach speeds of 39mph. As soon as a tropical storm develops, the National Hurricane Center names it to reduce confusion for times when there are multiple active storms. 

If the winds of a tropical storm increase to over 74mph, the storm keeps its name but is considered a hurricane. The only difference between tropical storms and hurricanes is that hurricanes have stronger sustained winds. Hurricanes are rated by category from one to five. Hurricanes that rate at least a 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale have wind speeds of 130 mph or more and are known to cause catastrophic damage if they land. 

Hurricane Irma hit Florida as a category 4 on September 10th of 2017, doing over 77 billion dollars in damage and causing the deaths of 134 people. In contrast, a typical tropical storm may not cause any deaths and does only millions to a few billion dollars in damage. 


So, Tropical Storms Aren’t a Big Deal?

Just because they may not be as intense and the wind speeds are lower than a hurricane, doesn’t mean you should write off tropical storms. If a tropical storm is still over warm waters (like the Gulf), it has the potential to intensify, sometimes quickly, into a hurricane. 

Additionally, tropical storms can still cause storm surges, and even “stall” so that the storm slows to a crawl and sits in one spot. This means heavy rain and constant strong winds, which can take a serious toll on your home or place of business – if you aren’t prepared with storm protection.


Do I Need To Prepare Differently?

When it comes to preparing for a tropical storm vs. a hurricane, prepare for the worst in every scenario, and hope for the best. When considering protecting your home or business, erring on the side of caution is never a bad idea. You should prepare well ahead of the hurricane season — which runs from June to October — and also check all weak points of your home after each storm. 

Both tropical storms and hurricanes produce pounding rains and winds that can send debris flying, so having protection for all weak points in your home is a smart choice. 

Consider these types of hurricane protection for your home or business:

  • Flood barriers. A hurricane barrier, such as sandbags, can protect your home from flood damage during both tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Hurricane shutters and screens. Hurricane shutters can protect your windows during a storm and include several types such as Bahama hurricane shutters that can protect your home while still adding a pleasing aesthetic. Screens are great for larger openings and can be customized to fit your home.  
  • Impact windows and doors. These heavy-duty options can protect the weakest points in your home.

Storm screens and shutters can be permanently installed and are ready to deploy whenever they’re needed. Having impact-resistant windows and doors installed, including a hurricane-resistant garage door, is another great option to give you peace of mind year-round.


Protection Solutions for ALL Storms

Although there is usually a difference in the severity of damage when comparing tropical storms vs hurricanes, all tropical cyclones can cause some damage. All storms have the potential to increase in strength quickly, causing even more problems for those who are caught off-guard. Having storm protection in place for your home will help to keep you and your family safe no matter the rainfall severity and wind speed mph.

Storm Solutions in Cape Coral is ready to help you with any of your storm protection questions. To learn more, download our free Hurricane Guide today.

Hurricane Guide

Topics: Hurricane Preparedness, Tropical Storm