With the public outcry, the repeated requests from my readers and the facts that I directly (Hurricane Harvey in Houston) and indirectly (Hurricane Maria in Dominica and Puerto Rico) experienced two atlantic hurricanes during this hurricane season, I felt the need to develop a “hurricane series”.
The purposes of this hurricane series are to 1) raise awareness on the multimodal devastating nature of hurricanes as natural disasters (for those who are still underestimating), 2) to share factual information and pictures of the aftermath of hurricane Maria and to 3) give recommendations on how you can provide hurricane relief in Dominica and why not, other areas affected by hurricanes.
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a Hurricane expert, and I will keep informing myself and share what I learn with you. Feel free to share your knowledge on this topic as well in an informative manner. But to start with, here are 5 key facts that everyone needs to know about Hurricanes.
1. Here is the actual definition of a hurricane: a hurricane is a “specific name” for a severe tropical cyclone. According to Wikipedia, a hurricane is “a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain”. In simpler terms, a hurricane is a group of storms that form along a low-pressure center and moved in a circular fashion, and are characterized by heavy strong winds and heavy rains. Depending on where you are, such tropical cyclones are called by different names. However, once a tropical cyclone moves at the sustained wind speed of 74-76 mph (miles per hour), it is considered a hurricane. If a tropical cyclone develops over the Atlantic ocean or northeastern Pacific ocean, it is called a “hurricane”. If it develops over the northwestern Pacific Ocean, it is called a “typhoon”. If it develops over the South Pacific or Indian Ocean, it is called a “cyclone”.
2. Hurricanes are Classified According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale: a lot of people have heard of hurricane categories 1-5, but the more I speak with people, the more I realize they don’t actually know what it means. And it’s Ok, because I used to “not know” as well. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale assesses hurricane severity based on the sustained wind speed, and this in turns helps to assess the likelihood of property damage. In other terms, the higher the “sustained wind speed”, the more deadly and damaging the hurricane is.
3. For each country and region prone to hurricanes, hurricanes develop during a particular season, and there is a reason for that: hurricanes basically develop over large water surfaces, and are fueled by the evaporation of water. That being said, in the Caribbean, hurricane season usually starts in June (start of summer) and continues until November. That is when the waters get heated the most.
4. Global Warming Potentiates Hurricanes: if you didn’t believe it before, believe it now. Think about it: when the oceans are getting heated up by the sun, three things happen, according to fluid dynamics:
a. Water evaporates, condenses and falls back as rain. And the more water evaporates, the more rain will fall, and the cycle goes on.
b. Water also expands in the ocean and occupies a larger surface, and that just gives more room for more water to evaporate and… the cycle continues.
c. More heat produces more energy to fuel the hurricane: based on the points that were made earlier, this makes sense.
5. Hurricane “Warning” and Hurricane “watch” are issued in islands prone to hurricanes, and these mean different things: do you remember this “74 mph” we spoke about earlier? That is the cut off number that meteorologists use to determine when a cyclone becomes a hurricane. A hurricane watch is issued when you suspect that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) will form in the next 48 hours. So this means “there is a possibility, let’s keep watching but let’s prepare and start taking precautions”.
A hurricane warning is issued when you expect hurricane conditions develop in the next 36 hours. Therefore, a hurricane warning is issued within 36 hours. This means “it is going to happen, let’s take more aggressive precautions and let’s evacuate”.
If you learned something in this article, please share. Make sure you subscribe to be notified of my next blog post: “Here is What People Truly die of during Hurricanes”.
Additional resources to keep you informed:
- Wikipedia (has almost everything)
Have you ever experienced a hurricane, a tropical cyclone, a tropical depression or a typhoon? Please let us know in the comments below!