- from Hurricanes
Dark clouds fill the sky. It’s the middle of the day, but it looks like night. The wind howls, and rain hits the ground so hard it digs holes in the mud.
Tree branches bend and crack, and whole trees are uprooted and crash down. Store windows break. The roofs of buildings fly through the air, while electric wires send out sparks and hang dangerously from broken utility poles. Signs blow across highways. Water floods the streets. It is a bad time to be outdoors, that’s for sure. You are in the middle of a hurricane—the largest, fiercest storm of nature. How do these storms start, and how can we protect ourselves from them? Keep reading.
Hurricanes begin as groups of thunderstorms that spiral and grow into one big storm. When the wind hits 74 mph (miles per hour), the storm is called a hurricane. Our word hurricane comes from the Taino Indian word urican. That means “big wind.” The Tainos are native Caribbean people. They believed in Hurakan, an “evil spirit of winds” (pictured). They thought he caused fierce storms. ▶
▲ About a fourth of all hurricanes also create tornadoes. Tornadoes are sometimes called twisters in the U.S. In 1967, Hurricane Beulah hit the southern Texas coast. It created more than 100 tornadoes. Tornadoes can be deadly too. But the biggest cause of damage and death is the storm surge after a hurricane. A storm surge is a fast rise in sea level. It’s caused by a fast drop in air pressure. As a hurricane moves, the ocean may rise 10 feet or more above its normal level. Huge waves hit the coast and move inland. They destroy everything and cause big floods. Hurricane Katrina hit the Atlantic in 2005. It caused a storm surge of over 25 feet in some places on the Gulf of Mexico coast.
▲ Storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean are called hurricanes. Storms in the northwestern Pacific Ocean are called typhoons. The word typhoon comes from the Mandarin Chinese word taifeng. It means “great wind.” Storms that form over the Indian Ocean are called cyclones. The word cyclone is based on the Greek word kyllon. That means the “coil of a snake.” Australians call these storms willy-willies. Meteorologists call them all tropical cyclones. Tropical means they are formed in parts of oceans near the equator. Whatever you call them, about 80 storms happen around the world each year.
◀ Nine out of ten tropical cyclones that form each year are typhoons. These storms happen in places such as Bangladesh, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Pacific Ocean typhoons are usually stronger than Atlantic hurricanes. This may be because the Pacific is bigger. Tropical storms are the start of tropical cyclones. They gather strength over warm ocean water. Storms over the Pacific must travel longer over water to reach a continent. They have more time to grow.