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The Basics: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and Storm Surges

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Hurricane

Here is a basic primer on hurricanes, tornadoes, and storm surges:

A hurricane is a severe tropical storm, that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes need warm tropical oceans, moisture, and light winds above them. If the right conditions last long enough, a hurricane can produce violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains and floods.

Hurricanes rotate in a counterclockwise direction around an “eye.” Hurricanes have winds at least 74 miles per hour. There are on average six Atlantic hurricanes each year; over a 3-year period, approximately five hurricanes strike the United States coastline from Texas to Maine.

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When hurricanes move onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds and heavy waves can damage buildings, trees and cars. The heavy waves are called a storm surge. Storm surge is very dangerous and a major reason why you MUST stay away from the ocean during a hurricane warning or hurricane.

Tornadoes
When you think about hurricanes you can not ignore tornadoes. Most (70%) landfalling hurricanes spawn at least one tornado. More than 20 tornadoes were reported during Hurricane David (1979). Most (90%) of the tornadoes that do form, occur on the right front side of the hurricane in the direction of its forward motion. Hurricanes may spawn tornadoes up to three days after landfall, although most of the tornadoes occur on the day of landfall, or on the next day.

Being tornado smart means having a safe place go and having the time to get there. Determine the safest place in your home – an interior room, a hallway, but never in a mobile home. With a NOAA weather radio, you will receive enough warning of any tornado threat.

Storm Surge
Storm surge is a massive dome of water often 50 miles wide, that sweeps across the coast near the area where the eye of the hurricane makes landfall. The storm surge acts like a bulldozer sweeping away everything in its path. The stronger the hurricane the higher the storm surge will be. For those who live along the coast, storm surge is one of the most dangerous hazards in a hurricane.

Compiled by Farmers’ Almanac  staff, based on a report from NOAA.

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