Hurricane FAQ’s: Part II

Aftermath of Galveston, Texas hurricane of 190...

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What Else Do You Want To Know . . .

Which tropical cyclone had the highest storm surge?

According to reports there was a real whopper in Australia in 1899. Tropical Cyclone Mahina produced a storm surge of a whopping 42 feet, but other reports say that it was closer to 48 feet. Apparently, dolphins and fish were found later on top of 50 foot cliffs. It gives a whole new meaning to “flying fish” doesn’t it?

Which tropical cyclone lasted for the longest time?

Remember that before satellites (ie pre 1961) it was difficult to estimate the life span of a tropical cyclone, but since then the longest one has been Hurricane John which lasted for a lingering 31 days in 1994. Hurricane Ginger was almost the same, lasting for a period of 28 days way back in 1971.  More recently Hurricane Kyle lasted for 22 days in 2002.

Which tropical cyclone caused the most damage?

The infamous Hurricane Katrina holds that record, well, for the most expensive tropical cyclone anyway, causing an estimated $81 billion in total losses, but, like for like, it might not actually be correct. If you take into account inflation, the increase in the population etc then Hurricane Katrina would probably be knocked into third place, behind the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, which at 2005 prices it would have cost an estimated $140 billion in damages, and Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which would have cost around $92 billion in 2005.

How many Atlantic basin hurricanes are there each year?

The average number of hurricanes (since records began in 1851) is 6.4, with 2.4 of them being classed as “major hurricanes” see FAQ’s Part I2005 had a massive amount of hurricanes, 15 in all, with 7 of them being major. 2005 certainly was the “year of the hurricane”, the worst since records began.

How many hurricanes have been in the Atlantic Ocean at the same time?

Records show that twice there have been as many as four hurricanes in the Atlantic simultaneously.  The first time it happened was way back in 1893, but again in 1998 Hurricanes Georges, Jeanne, Karl and Ivan were “quadruplets” if you like.  There were actually five tropical cyclones all at the same time in 1971, but most of them didn’t develop into full blown hurricanes.

Which countries have the most tropical cyclones?

The United States is top of that list, unfortunately . . . followed by China, Philippines, Mexico and Japan although, to be fair, some countries have records which go further back than others. If we look at the number of tropical cyclones since 1970 the United States drops down the list to number 5 . . . the order becomes China, Philippines, Japan, Mexico then the US.

How accurate are the National Hurricane Center forecasts?

It’s very difficult to predict the track of a hurricane for lots of different reasons as you can see here, however, the National Hurricane Center are getting better at it all of the time, and these days, a 3 day forecast is as accurate as a 2 day forecast used to be in the 1980’s, and 48 hour forecasts have 20% less errors than they had in the middle of the 1970’s.  The biggest problem is knowing the exact track which the hurricane will follow.

When is the hurricane season?

The official Atlantic hurricane season runs from the June 1 through to November 30, however, that doesn’t mean that hurricanes cannot happen at any other time which isn’t in season. The majority of hurricanes generally occur during mid August through to October.

That was good wasn’t it?

Why do hurricanes usually occur in the summer and fall?

Because that’s when the necessary ingredients for the tropical cyclone “recipe” are most readily available.

Who are the “Hurricane Hunters”?

The Hurricane Hunters carry out hurricane reconnaissance work in the Atlantic basin (Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico) and the central and eastern Pacific. This is carried out by two different government agencies . . . NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center and the US Air Force Reserves 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.

I bet that’s one hell of a buzz don’t you?

What’s it like to fly into a hurricane?

The Hurricane Hunters tell us that most of the time it’s pretty routine and boring, but that’s probably because we’ll all be after their jobs if they told us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They do admit that being in the middle of a strong hurricane is an unforgettable and incredible sight, so I guess we’ll just have to take their word for it. It must get pretty turbulent flying through the rainbands and the eyewall with all of those updrafts and downdrafts, a very bumpy ride, but once you’ve gone through that and into the center it’s a place of peace and beauty . . . a wonderful circle of blue sky surrounded by thunderstorms and blackness.

Can I book a seat on the next hurricane flight?

No, not unless you’re involved in the mission. Wonder if they need anyone to make the sandwiches?

Do other planets have hurricanes?

Not really, planets like Saturn and Jupiter do have fierce storms but they don’t have the oceans of warm water needed for the tropical cyclone recipe.

Is there any computer software I can use to track hurricanes?

Yes, there are a few tropical cyclone tracking programs available: JStrack, StormTrakker,Global Tracks, HurrTrak, Tracking the Eye to name but some . . .

. . . and then of course there’s Google Earth which just gets better and better!

Where can I keep informed about the latest hurricane information?

The NHC make it their mission to give out as much hurricane information as possible, that is the best way to save lives after all. Services include:

  • NOAA Weather Radio – pick up a cheap portable radio to make sure that you’ve always got the latest hurricane information to hand . . . wherever you are.
  • Local radio – the local radio stations are also committed to keeping you updated on the latest hurricane info.
  • Television – why didn’t I think of that first?
  • Radio Fax – is a great method for mariners whilst they are out at sea.
  • Wireless – info can be sent to WAP capable cell phones and PDA’s.
  • E-mail – subscribe to one of the NHC’s mailing lists for up to date information straight to you inbox.
  • RSS Feeds – are available too

Is there much lightening in a tropical cyclone?

Rather surprisingly, no there isn’t, at least there isn’t generally much lightening within around 60 miles of the center of a tropical cyclone.

What should I do if a hurricane watch or warning is posted?

You should already have some hurricane plans in place: a pre-hurricane plan,  a family hurricane plan, a property hurricane plan, a hurricane evacuation plan, even a hurricane plan for your pets. Don’t wait until the windows are rattling and there’s a river running down the main street before you take action. Be prepared well in advance.

Which causes the most damage . . . a hurricane or a tornado?

Tornadoes do have the capacity to generate stronger wind speeds than hurricanes, but statistics show that in the long run the damage caused by hurricanes far outweighs that caused by tornadoes . . . over the whole season.  Hurricanes are generally bigger, they hang around much longer and they bring with them lots of different hurricane hazards.


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