April 25

Hurricanes

Remnants of Hurricane FernandaCreative Commons LicenseHURRICANES 

The clouds are dark and moving in fast, it’s starting to rain hard then it turns into sideways rain drenching the yard. The wind picks up and blows hard striking trees in its path. The windows are taped or boarded, the gas tanks full, a wallet full of money, cabinets stocked with food and water, batteries, radio, and candles ready. We are prepared. Watch out, here comes a hurricane!

What is a hurricane? Hurricanes are powerful ocean storms. They have high winds, heavy rain, and gigantic waves. Hurricanes can cause bad damage to the land. The wind can be so strong that it knocks down power poles causing entire towns to lose electricity. It knocks downs trees causing damage to homes, stores, cars and other things in its way. Huge waves can cause massive flooding to towns and cities. It can destroy towns and even hurt or kill people. Hurricanes are given names just like you and me are. For example, Hurricane Harvey was the recent hurricane that hit Texas and caused major flooding and killed about 88 people. There was a hurricane Sarah in 1959. Hurricanes in the United States happen mostly on the East coast, Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean.  My parents grew up in South Carolina and experienced many hurricanes. In one hurricane (Hurricane Hugo) they lost power to their homes and missed school for three weeks! My mom said, “it was like camping in our house but really hot and no TV”. Unlike earthquakes and fires, hurricanes are predictable and people have time to prepare for them or evacuate if needed. In San Diego, we have to watch out for earthquakes and fires more than hurricanes and those we can’t really prepare for.

How do hurricanes form?  Hurricanes start in warm water in the ocean.  Warm air rises from the top of the ocean. The air gets cold as it rises. The water in the air forms clouds and gives off heat. The storm starts to grow and spin. More air rises and cools.  When the winds reach up to 74 miles per hour that means the storm has become a hurricane.The center of the storm is called an eye. The eye of the hurricane is very calm. Everything around the eye is the hurricane and spins around the eye with wild winds and heavy rain. The eye is usually 10 to 40 miles wide. My dad said his most memorable part of the hurricane was when he went outside during the eye of the storm and “it was so quiet, still and eery”.  Since hurricanes are formed from warm water, we in San Diego don’t need to worry about a hurricane striking as the water in the Pacific Ocean here is cold.

What is the damage from a hurricane?  There are five types of hurricanes. Some are bad and some can be extremely bad. They are rated into categories of 1-5. Category 1 is weak and winds can reach 74-95 miles per hour. Category 2 is moderate and winds reach 96-110 miles per hour. Category 3 is strong and winds reach 111-130 miles per hour.  Category 4 is very strong and winds reach 131-155 miles per hour. Category 5 is considered devastating with winds greater than 155 miles per hour reaching up to over 250 miles per hour. Category 4 and 5 are considered to be the worse and can cause major damage, however, a category 2 storm can cause major flooding depending on the amount of rain. The damage that the hurricanes can do is ruin houses, trees, and the land. It can flood the whole area around the hurricane. Trees can fall and break things causing damage and power outages. Flooding can be bad depending on what category it is. It could be a minor flood, or a major flood where the water can reach the top of your car roof, or halfway inside your house, or even worse, cover your entire house. For example, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded the city of New Orleans and destroyed about 275,000 houses.

Hurricanes can be scary, but at least there is time to prepare for them and people can predict where the hurricane will land. It is important to have an emergency plan and disaster kit ready in case you will need to evacuate or get stuck in your home.  A hurricane can be a catastrophe, or it could be a minor storm. You just need to be prepared.