- from Hurricanes
Dark clouds blot out the Sun from the sky. It’s the middle of the day, but it looks like night. The wind howls, and rain pelts the ground so hard that it digs holes in the mud, while tree branches bend and crack.
Even entire trees are uprooted and go crashing down to the ground. Store windows are shattered. The roofs of buildings sail through the air, while electric wires send out sparks and dangle dangerously from broken utility poles. Signs go flying across highways, and the streets become flooded with water. It is no time to be outdoors, that’s for sure. You are in the middle of a hurricane—the largest, fiercest storm nature can bring. Read on to learn more about how these huge storms get started, and how can we protect ourselves from them.
Hurricanes begin as clusters of thunderstorms that spiral and grow into one giant storm. When the wind reaches 74 mph (miles per hour), the storm is called a hurricane. Our word hurricane comes from the Taino Indian word urican, meaning “big wind.” The Tainos are native Caribbean people. They believed that Hurakan, an “evil spirit of winds” (pictured), caused fierce storms. ▶
▲ About a fourth of all hurricanes also produce tornadoes (sometimes called twisters in the U.S.). In 1967, Hurricane Beulah came ashore along the southern Texas coast. That storm produced over 100 tornadoes. Tornadoes can be deadly, but the greatest cause of damage and death is the storm surge that follows a hurricane. A storm surge is a sudden rise in sea level, caused by a sudden drop in air pressure. As a hurricane moves over the ocean, the water may rise 10 feet or more above its normal level. Huge waves crash along the coast and move inland. They destroy everything in their path and cause massive flooding. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused a storm surge of over 25 feet in some areas along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
▲ The storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean are called hurricanes, while those that form in the northwestern Pacific Ocean are called typhoons. The word typhoon comes from the Mandarin Chinese word taifeng, meaning “great wind.” Storms that form over the Indian Ocean are called cyclones. The word cyclone is based on the Greek word kyllon, defined as the “coil of a snake.” Australians call these storms willy-willies. Meteorologists call all of these storms tropical cyclones. Tropical means the storms are formed in areas of oceans near the equator. No matter what the storms are called, on average, about 80 of them occur worldwide each year.
◀ Nine out of ten of the tropical cyclones that form each year are typhoons. These violent storms occur in places such as Bangladesh, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Pacific Ocean typhoons are usually fiercer than Atlantic Ocean hurricanes. Scientists think this may be because the Pacific is larger than the Atlantic. Tropical storms, which are the beginnings of tropical cyclones, gather force over warm ocean water. Storms forming over the Pacific Ocean must travel farther over water to reach a continent, so they have more time to develop.