Florida is making its way through Tropical Storm Fay, and particularly my area of the state, Central Florida are entering its Post-storm phase. This includes cleanup, insurance claims, auto mechanic bills, etc. Over the past week, much of Central Florida was hammered by high winds, heavy rains, flooding, and tornadoes. Some of the hardest hit areas to include Deltona, Sanford, and Barefoot Bay will take weeks and probably months to recover. It made me want to put up some information for those of us who are curious, or who don’t know too much about hurricanes. So here you go.
Not for nothin’, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) gives some damn good information!
A “hurricane” is the most severe category of the meteorological phenomenon known as the “tropical cyclone.” Tropical Cyclones are low pressure systems that have thunderstorm activity and rotate counterclockwise. The category of the storm does not necessarily relate directly to the damage it will inflict. Lower category storms (and even tropical storms) can cause substantial damage depending on what other weather features they interact with, where they strike, and how they move.
Typical hurricanes are about 300 miles wide although they can vary considerably in size. The eye at a hurricane’s center is a relatively calm, clear area approximately 20-40 miles across. The eyewall surrounding the eye is composed of dense clouds that contain the highest winds in the storm. The storm’s outer rainbands (often with hurricane or tropical storm-force winds) are made up of dense bands of thunderstorms ranging from a few miles to tens of miles wide and 50 to 300 miles long. Hurricane-force winds can stretch out as far as 300 miles from the center of a large hurricane.
Frequently, the right side of a hurricane is the most dangerous in terms of storm surge, winds, and tornadoes. A hurricane’s speed and path depend on complex ocean and atmospheric interactions, including the presence or absence of other weather patterns. This complexity of the flow makes it very difficult to predict. Be prepared for changes in size, intensity , speed, and direction.
The main hazards associated with tropical cyclones and especially hurricanes are storm surge, high winds, heavy rain, and flooding, as well as tornadoes. The intensity of a hurricane is an indicator of damage potential. However, impacts are a function of where and when the storm strikes. Hurricane Diane (1955) hit the northeastern U.S. and caused 184 deaths. It was only a Category 1 hurricane but the thirteenth deadliest since 1900. Hurricane Agnes (1972), also a Category 1 hurricane, ranks fifth with damages estimates at 6.9 billion when adjusted for inflation.
Storm surge is the greatest potential threat to life and property associated with hurricanes. Typically, the more intense the storm (in terms of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale), the more wind damage a community will sustain, particularly if it does not have an effective mitigation program and has not prepared in advance for the storm. Hurricanes (and some tropical storms) typically produce widespread rainfall of 6 to 12 inches or more, often resulting in severe flooding. Rains are generally heaviest with slower moving storms (less than 10 mph). Tornadoes are most likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane. However, they are also often found elsewhere in the rainbands.