What Is A Hurricane?

The scientific definition of a hurricane is as follows: a hurricane is a tropical cyclone (TC), in which winds reach a constant speed above 74 miles per hour. Below 74 mph, the storm is called a tropical storm (74 mph – 39 mph) or a tropical depression (less than 39 mph). In the simplest explanation, a hurricane is a giant whirlwind in which air moves around the center of extreme low pressure.

In the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes circulate counterclockwise, in the Southern Hemisphere, clockwise. In the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and eastern North Pacific Ocean we call our storms hurricanes; in other parts of the world scientists call them typhoons (in the Western Pacific) or cyclones (in the Indian Ocean). The drive behind a hurricane is dependent on warm water, moisture and wind pattern. The reason a hurricane “dies” once it hits land is because it loses its fuel, that warm ocean water with heat from condensing water vapor.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs each year from June 1st to November 30th, though most storms occur in August, September and October. Atlantic coast hurricanes are born in the tropical and subtropical North Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. On average, there are about six Atlantic hurricanes each year (but remember, that’s just an average).

Pacific hurricanes that affect the western part of the U.S. are not rare, they just don’t usually have as much energy as Atlantic hurricanes. They are capable of damage and usually bring heavy rain to Southern California and parts of the Southwest. The Pacific hurricane season starts 15 days earlier than the Atlantic season (May 15th) but also ends on November 30th.

For Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, the time of the year directly relates to where a storm is most likely to originate: May and June storms start in the Gulf and western Caribbean. July and August, the origins of storms shift eastward. In September, look for storms to start from the Bahamas to the Lesser Antilles, and as the month progresses, shift eastward and south to the Lesser Antilles and Cape Verde Islands near the west coast of Africa. After mid September, the origins shift back towards the western Caribbean and Gulf.

Many deaths occur during a hurricane when people come out of shelter when the eye passes over. They are lured into thinking the storm is over, only to be caught by surprise by the other side of the storm, with winds that come from the opposite direction. And although hurricane winds do a lot of damage, most people die during a hurricane by drowning caused by flooding from heavy rains or storm surges…