cyclone season is upon us. In the North Atlantic, including the Caribbean
Basin, it starts on 1 June and ends on 30 November; in the Northeastern
Pacific, it starts on 15 May and finishes on 30 November. What can we
learn from this meteorological phenomenon? Interesting and valuable information
can be found to help us learn more about one of the most violent phenomena
on planet Earth.
What Is A Hurricane?
A hurricane is a violent
storm arising in the tropical oceans, approximately between 15° North
and 5° South.
It is characterized
by a significant low pressure center, surrounded by clouds organized in
the shape of a spiral that, in the Northern hemisphere, turn counterclockwise.
A hurricane is defined
by winds of more than 120 Km per hour, torrential rains, and strong tides.
An essential element that contributes to this phenomenon is surface sea
temperature, which must be equal to or higher than 27°C.
when they hit the coast or veer towards colder waters, where they cannot
receive enough energy to remain active.
Where Does The
Word Hurricane Come From?
Hurekan or Hurakan was the name given by the Mayans,
Quiches and Tainos to the god of storms and diabolical spirits.
In other parts of
the world, this meteorological phenomenon is known by other names:
Regions Where Hurricanes
North Atlantic: Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Western Atlantic
North Pacific: Western Mexico, Western Pacific, Sea of Japan, China Sea,
India: Gulf of Bengal, Sea of Arabia
South Pacific; Northern Australia, Coral Sea
Western Indian Ocean: Madagascar, eastern coast of South Africa
Eastern Indian Ocean: Northeastern Australia, Sea of Arafura, Southern
Story Behind Hurricane Names
For many years, hurricanes
were identified with the names of saints. (This went on from the 18th
Century to the first half of the 20th.) After World War II, in the middle
of the 20th Century, a code in alphabetical order began to be used to
facilitate ease of transmission and the plotting of maps of these phenomena.
In 1953, the Meteorological
Service of the United States decided to being using womens names
in alphabetical order. In 1978, it was decided to alternate between womens
and mens names in the hurricanes that arise in the Northeastern
Pacific. In 1979, alternate male and female names were incorporated into
the lists of cyclones in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
The specific names
included in the list each year are selected in international meetings
of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Member countries decide
on the names.
The letters Q, U,
X, Y and Z are not used to name the Atlantic ocean hurricanes, given the
scarcity of names beginning with those initials.
When the impact of
specific hurricanes is particularly devastating, causing a large number
of deaths and considerable economic damage, the name is retired from the
list, and may not be used for at least another 10 years.
The National Hurricane
Center in the United States issues hurricane advisories and warnings.
What do these terms mean?
means that within the next 24 hours a particular area is expected to suffer
from either or both of these dangerous effects of hurricanes: winds of
118 Km an hour or faster, or high waves even if winds are not quite as
hurricane watch warns
specific areas that a hurricane may hit them within the next 36 hours.
Did You Know?
Hurricanes can cause significant floods and tornadoes. Tornadoes take
place in the storm areas along bands of rain that are somewhat removed
from the heart of the hurricane.
Names Chosen For Tropical Cyclones In The Northeastern Pacific And The
North Atlantic (Including The Caribbean And Gulf Of Mexico) For The 2001
- Pacific Ocean:
Adolph, Barbara, Cosme, Dalila, Erick, Flossie, Gil, Henriette, Israel,
Juliette, Kiko, Lorena, Manuel, Narda, Octave, Priscilla, Raymond, Sonia,
Tico, Velma, Wallis, Xina, York, Zelda.
- Atlantic Ocean:
Allison, Barry, Chantal, Dean, Erin, Felix, Gabrielle, Humberto, Iris,
Jerrye, Karen, Lorenzo, Michelle, Noel, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastian,
Tanya, Van, Wendy.
Hurricanes are also classified according to the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
These are the categories:
Intensity of Sustained winds
84 a 96 Knots (153-178 km/h)
a 113 Knots
a 135 Knots
or higher (+ 250km/h)
a Family Home Evacuation Plan
- Identify where
you can go if you are advised to leave your home. Consider various places:
a friend's home in another city, a hotel, a shelter.
- Have at hand the
phone numbers of those places, as well as a highway map of your locality.
It may be necessary to take alternative routes, including unknown routes,
if the main highways are closed or congested.
Make sure you have the following:
- First-aid kit and
essential drugs and medical supplies.
- Tinned food and
a tin opener.
- At least three
gallons of water per person.
- Protective clothing,
weatherproof garments and bedclothes or sleeping bags.
- A battery-operated
radio, a torch or flashlight and spare batteries.
- Special items
for babies, the elderly, or handicapped family members.
Prepare for strong winds.
- Place storm blinds
or pre-cut plywood ½? boards on each window of your home. Hammer
supports for the plywood boards into the walls and drill holes into
the supports to make it easier to hammer or screw the boards into place.
- Help trees to
resist the wind by cutting down damaged or weak branches. Remove other
branches strategically to allow the wind to blow through them.
To Do If A Hurricane Watch Is In Effect
- A battery-operated
radio, a torch or flashlight and spare batteries.
- Listen to your
local radio or TV stations for up-to-the-minute information on the storm.
- Be prepared to
bring indoors your garden furniture, decorations or exterior ornaments,
garbage containers, hanging plants, etc.
- Get ready to cover
all the windows in your home. If storm windows have not been installed,
use precut plywood boards as already noted. (Please note: Adhesive tape
does not prevent window glass from breaking, so it is not advisable
to use adhesive tape on windows.)
- Fill up your car's
- Check to make
sure you have spare batteries and store tinned food, first-aid equipment,
drinking water and drugs in a place that is readily accessible.
What To Do If A Hurricane Warning Is In Effect
- Pay attention to
the announcements of local authorities and evacuate your home if you
are so advised.
If no evacuation orders are issued, remain within your home, far away
from the windows.
- Bear in mind that
the eye of the storm can fool anyone: the storm is not over yet. In
fact, the worst part of the storm will take place once the eye has passed
over your home and winds are blowing in the opposite direction. The
trees, shrubs, buildings and other objects damaged by the first set
of winds may be additionally damaged or totally destroyed by secondary
- Pay attention
to the likelihood of tornados. Tornados may occur not only during a
hurricane but after it has passed. Remain indoors, near the center of
your home, inside a closet or in a windowless bathroom.
- Stay away from
flooded areas. If you run into a flooded highway, turn around and try
another route. If you are trapped in a flooded highway, leave the car
immediately and head for higher ground.
What To Do After the Hurricane Is Over?
- Continue to listen
to local radio or TV stations in case additional instructions are issued.
- If you had to
leave your home, go back to it when local authorities confirm that it
is safe to do so.
- Check to see if
your home suffered damages.
Senior Meteorologist-Expert on
The weather Channel LatinAmerica