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The Deadly Hurricane

Hurricanes are cyclones over water while tornadoes are cyclones over land. In the Pacific hurricanes are known as typhoons. By international agreement, tropical cyclone is the general term for all cyclonic circulations originating over tropical waters. The name, hurricane, is from the Carib god, Huarakan.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. September is the highest probability month of the season. There is an average of 10 named storms per season according to the National Hurricane Center. A storm gets named as it reaches tropical storm status. Residents and visitors to the area should learn the elevation of where they are in relation to sea level and the storm surge history of the area. Storm surge is a dome-like rise in the ocean level associated with the hurricane.

Hurricanes have circling bands consisting of severe winds, heavy rain and lightning rotating in a counterclockwise direction around a relatively calm center of extremely low atmospheric pressure known as the Hurricane's Eye. They begin off the coast of Africa and move westerly towards the Caribbean and Eastern United States. Their movement is directed by a high pressure system in the Atlantic called the Bermuda/Azores high. Beginning as low pressure tropical disturbances, common phenomenons in the tropics, these depressed areas suck water and air into themselves from this surrounding high pressure area. They build up strength over warm waters but may lose some of their energy once they cross over land.

Meteorologists classify hurricanes by categories of 1-5 using a scale that measures the wind and speed of the storm called a Beaufort Scale. A Tropical Depression has a highest wind speed of 38 miles per hour (33 knots), with some rotary circulation and one or more closed isobars. A Tropical Storm has distinct rotary circulation with wind speeds of 39- 73 miles per hour (34-63 knots), closed isobars and a pressure of 14.0 pounds per square foot. A Hurricane has strong and very pronounced rotary circulation, closed isobars, a pressure of 17 or more pounds per square foot and winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) and higher. The devastating class 5 hurricane exceeds wind speed of 156 miles per hour.

Beginning with Small Craft Advisories when a hurricane is within a few hundred miles of the coast, the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla.(Miami) warns small craft operators not to venture into the open ocean and to take precautions. When a threat to a coastal area can occur within the next 36 hours, a Tropical Storm Watch is issued. Occurring within 24 hours, and with winds of 39-73 miles per hour expected, a Tropical Storm Warning is issued. A Hurricane Watch is an announcement for a specific area of winds exceeding hurricane strength expected within 36 hours. Occurring within 24 hours or less, and with winds exceeding 74 miles per hour, a Hurricane Warning is issued.

Do not wait until the last minute. Take precautions. Get away from low lying areas which may be swept by high tides or storm surge. DO NOT RUN THE RISK OF BEING MAROONED! Follow the advise of local authorities.

Before the storm, board up windows or put hurricane shutters in place. Bring inside anything that might blow away or be torn loose. Remember these items can turn into weapons of destruction with the force of the wind. Garbage cans, TV antennas, signs, porch furniture and awnings fall into this category. Gas up your car, pack all medications needed, diapers, baby food / formula for infants and important papers. Know your Evacuation Route and where Evacuation Shelters are. Family pets must be boarded or moved to areas outside the Evacuation Zones. There generally are no provisions for them at shelters.( For information concerning pet care in a weather emergency, call the Humane Society of Tampa Bay at 813-876-7138 or during a storm you may contact the Tampa Bay Suncoast Chapter of the American Red Cross at 813-251-0921) If you live in a Mobile Home, you must evacuate. This type of construction is vulnerable to hurricanes. Tie Downs may not help if the storm is severe enough.

If you are not required to leave your area and choose to stay, make sure you have a supply of non-perishable foods that can be eaten without cooking. Your power may be interrupted and you could be without refrigeration. Sterilize the bath tub as well as jugs and bottles and fill with drinking water, as city water service could also be interrupted. Have on hand a supply of batteries , flashlights and a radio. Prepare a safe room. This may be a large closet or windowless hallway. Stay away from windows. Mattresses can be used to protect you. Remain indoors until the "All Clear" is given. Remember when the "eye" of the storm passes, there will be a lull in the wind lasting a few minutes to half an hour or more. When it returns, it will be from the opposite direction with the possibility of greater violence. Opening a window slightly on the side opposite the direction the hurricane is coming from may relieve the pressure inside the house. Close it and open one on the other side of the house after the eye passes. After the storm, remember to use caution. Don't touch loose or dangling wires. Check for gas leaks. If your home is flooded, do not turn on lights or appliances until an electrician has checked everything. Stay off the roads, if not a good reason. Emergency crews will be at work cleaning up and you could hamper first aid or rescue work. Document damage and contact your insurance agent.

Do not be lulled into thinking that it cannot happen here. In 1848, 2 major hurricanes struck Tampa Bay within 30 days. A recurrence of a similar scenario today would bring an unprecedented disaster to our metropolitan area. Hurricane Andrew hit the Miami, Florida area with devastating force.

Click HERE to see some pictures of what Hurricane Andrew did to The Miami, Florida area.

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