Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma (and we hope Jose dwindles down to nothing). I have put some links to places where you can donate at the end of this post.
Categories of Storms: What Do They Mean
We all hear about the different categories of tropical storms and hurricanes. What do they mean?
They are measured by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale — a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. This scale also estimates potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and h
igher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage. Category 1 and 2 storms are still dangerous, however, and require preventative measures.
|Category||Sustained Winds||Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds|
|Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.|
|Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.|
|Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.|
|Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.|
|157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
|Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.|
Different Types of Wind and Water Storms
The following are some of the most common types of damaging storms in the United States:
Hailstorms do the greatest amount of damage to the exterior of your home or property: roof damage, siding damage, shingle damage, window damage, and automobile damage.
Thunderstorms can produce lightning, hail, tornadoes, flooding, and more.
Ice storms produce freezing rain that coats everything in its path with a layer of glaze ice. Generally speaking, if a storm causes accumulation of more than a quarter inch on exposed surfaces, the storm can be classified as an ice storm. This type of accumulation can cause broken tree branches, power outages, and other hazardous conditions.
For many areas around the United States, damage from severe tornadoes presents a very real threat. Most tornado damage is done by high winds with recorded speeds exceeding 300 MPH and the flying debris propelled by these fierce winds. The most damage from tornadoes happens in “tornado alley” — a part of the United States that includes Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Missouri.
You may be surprised to learn that lightning is a major cause of storm damage in many areas around the country. The National Lightning Safety Institute estimates the cost of lightning damage in the $5 to $6 billion dollar per year range. Lightning that hits trees and the ground is a common cause of wildfires, structure fires, property damage, and power outages.
Heavy Snow / Blizzards
Blizzards are severe winter storms that combine heavy snowfall, with high winds and freezing temperatures. The combination of cold, wind, and snow damages homes, businesses, and automobiles. Heavy snow can produce dangerous conditions, including roof collapse.
Floods are typically the result of heavy rain and water that rises faster than storm drains can handle. Flash floods driven by quick, violent bursts of rain can flood homes, basements, and businesses, causing serious damage to both interiors and exteriors. Flooding is a very dangerous storm phenomenon that results in numerous deaths and extensive property damage each year.
A derecho is a large, violent, fast-moving, complex of thunderstorms that follow one another along a path of at least 240 miles, with wind gusts of at least 58 mph. Although derechos are very difficult to predict, they often form along the boundary of a large, hot air mass near a jet-stream air current.
A tropical storm is a type of storm system that develops in tropical environments. These storms are characterized by extremely low pressure systems and high-speed, swirling winds. In order for a storm to be classified as a “tropical storm,” a specific set of circumstances must exist. In order to be a tropical storm, the wind speed must be between 39 and 73 miles per hour. Lower or higher wind speeds would be another classification (lower: tropical depression, higher: hurricane).
A hurricane is the most powerful classification given to a tropical cyclone. Characterized by low barometric pressure systems, extremely high winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges and swells, hurricanes that make landfall can be extremely destructive.
What Does FEMA Stand For and What Does It Do?
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) supports the citizens and first responders who work to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
Climactic Versus Climatic
Many people get these two words confused. Climactic comes from climax. Climatic comes from climate. So when we are talking storms, we are usually talking about climatic.
How Are Hurricanes Named?
Ever wonder how hurricanes get their names? And why do hurricanes have names at all? Meteorologists long ago learned that naming tropical storms and hurricanes helps people remember the storms, communicate about them more effectively, and so stay safer if and when a particular storm strikes a coast. These experts assign names to hurricanes according to a formal list of names that is approved of prior to the start of each hurricane season.
Most hurricanes were originally designated by a system of latitude-longitude numbers, which was useful to meteorologists trying to track these storms. Unfortunately, this system was confusing to people living on coasts seeking hurricane information.
In 1950 a formal practice for storm naming was first developed for the Atlantic Ocean by the U.S. National Hurricane Center. At that time, storms were named according to a phonetic alphabet (e.g., Able, Baker, Charlie), and the names used were the same for each hurricane season; in other words, the first hurricane of a season was always named “Able,” the second “Baker,” and so on.
In 1953, to avoid the repetitive use of names, the system was revised so that storms would be named after female names. By doing this, the National Weather Service was mimicking the habit of naval meteorologists, who named the storms after women, much as ships at sea were traditionally named for women.
In 1979 the system was revised again to include both female and male hurricane names.
Atlantic hurricane names for the 2017 season are: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, and Whitney. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30