Have you heard the one about hurricanes in the middle of a drought? They’re called “The Carolina Hurricanes,” and their 6-year playoff drought is a real disaster. But hurricane (and hockey) jokes aside, let’s get down to business: hurricane hazards.
Famous for torrential rain and lashing winds, do you know where most hurricane damage occurs? If you say flooding, you’re right! You rocked it, as they say, like a hurricane! Most hurricane damage is caused by flooding, and not generally from the rainfall, but from rising ocean levels called “storm surge.” This storm surge affects more than those on the coast, too; storm surges can penetrate many miles inland, as we recently witnessed in New Jersey during hurricane Sandy.
A storm surge is a huge wave of water caused by a storm’s strong winds. They can reach as high as 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastline. Storm surges can damage buildings, erode and cause damage to beaches, and are one of the leading causes of death during hurricanes.
A prime example of the devastation a surge can cause is in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. According to the National Hurricane Center, “at least 1500 persons lost their lives during Katrina and many of those deaths occurred directly, or indirectly, as a result of storm surge.” This is one reason those ordered by government officials to evacuate should do so without delay. Staying behind could be disastrous.
Because it’s easier to visualize a storm surge with, well, visuals, I have two videos that will help you understand what they are and how you can prepare. This first video comes to you from the U.S. National Weather Service will help you learn more about storm surges and where to go for more information regarding this hazard:
This next video is an animation retrieved from the National Hurricane Center shows an example of the destruction a storm surge can do when a hurricane comes in:
Besides storm surges, there are many other hazards associated with hurricanes. As if being in a hurricane isn’t disaster enough, tornadoes are also a common inland occurrence that accompany hurricanes. In fact, the National Weather Service claims that “in recorded history, almost every tropical storm and hurricane that has come onshore in the U.S. has produced a tornado.”
Another hurricane hazard are rip currents. Rip currents aren’t your ordinary ocean shoreline current. Strong winds can almost reverse the natural shoreline waves that, instead of pulling water towards shore, actually pull away from shore. These currents are deadly, and hurricanes can produce these currents at our shores from hundreds of miles away. For example, the National Hurricane Center reported that “in 2008, despite the fact that Hurricane Bertha was more than a 1,000 miles offshore, the storm resulted in rip currents that killed three people along the New Jersey coast and required 1,500 lifeguard rescues in Ocean City, Maryland, over a 1 week period.”
Even 1,000 miles offshore, Bertha produced strong rip currents that effected swimmers on the shores for over a week! That right there is a great reason to always check the water conditions before you hit the beach. After all, rip currents often form on calm, sunny days.
This article on hurricane hazards just wouldn’t be complete without talking about the high winds that accompany hurricanes. A category 1 hurricane starts with wind speeds of 74-95mph. As the wind speeds increase, so does the category number, until it reaches category 5, which is 157 mph and higher. Even a category 1 hurricane will have dangerous winds that will produce damage. As the category number rises, so will the damage it causes. Check out this link here for more information on hurricane categories, their wind speeds, and what to expect from the damage they will cause.
Hurricanes do have something of a bright side. Unlike tornadoes and earthquakes, this natural disaster tends to give us several days’ notice, so there should be time to board up, alert the family and evacuate if need be. However, don’t expect to be able to stock-up once news of a hurricane hits; stores will be picked bare within an hour of when ground zero is identified.
Know the hazards hurricanes bring so you can keep yourself safe.
How do you prepare for these hazards? Let us know your thoughts in comments!