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Hurricanes in Paradise

There is no doubt that a particular natural phenomenon will bother a lot of people in Florida from time to time, and it will probably become a top media event once in a while. Especially when there is not too much going on somewhere else in the world, this event will be the number one story on TV 24/7. "Hurricane" is the trigger word.

Hurricanes belong to Florida as much as the sunshine, sunburn, moon landings, Flippers, and Mickey Mouse; they are just a part of our subtropical/tropical existence. Tropical storms and hurricanes are the price you pay for living in a place where the sun is charging the oceans and the atmosphere with an abundance of energy. A hurricane needs 80+ degrees Fahrenheit water temperature to develop; hurricanes will not form rapidly below this threshold temperature. However, during the peak of the summer months, the water temperature will exceed that threshold easily in Florida. 

The official Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30. In general, the most active months are August through the end of October. But not every year will be a busy season; 2004/2005 were very challenging; the following ten years were remarkably calm - at least on Florida's Gulf Coast. Does it mean it will stay like that forever? Most likely not. 

What is a Topical Depression?

A tropical depression is an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph or less. A tropical depression is the nursery of all hurricanes. An inconspicuous minor depression is actually how it all begins, and fortunately, not all of them will shift into high gear. If the surrounding area is not favorable for development, a tropical depression will dump rain and die. 

What is a Tropical Storm?

A tropical storm is an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39-73 mph. When tropical storms are closer to the upper end (70 mph wind and more), they can damage older homes, modular homes, and trailer parks. Furthermore, the amount of rain can cause a severe headache in low-lying areas. Flooding is a big concern, but many homes are damaged by falling trees, which is the main reason for insurance claims. Once the soil is saturated, the wind can easily uproot the trees. 

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that forms in the tropics. It is an area of low pressure with a lot of convection, therefore, accompanied by strong thunderstorms, tornados, plenty of rain, and a counterclockwise circulation of winds. They can start as a storm over Africa and develop into a hurricane while traveling along the Equator. However, they can form right in front of Florida's doorsteps, in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean, as well. 

Hurricane is the name for an intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. According to their wind speed, hurricanes are categorized as Cat 1 (74-95 mph), Cat 2 (96-110 mph), Cat 3 (111-130 mph), Cat 4 (131-155 mph), and Cat 5 (155+ mph). Embedded tornadoes speed up the wind even more. (Hurricane Watch and Hurricane Warning) 

In this age of technology, a storm rarely comes in unannounced. Hurricanes are found and tracked from their infancy, so timely information is always available. The weathermen usually do an excellent job of predicting the exact path and timeline of those storms. However, and they do admit it, they may be pretty good at projecting the storm's path, but they are still having a hard time predicting the intensity of the wind.

Category 4 or 5 - Does it really make a Difference?

The difference between a Cat 4 and Cat 5 is not only a "few more" miles of wind; it can be the difference between disaster and a major catastrophe! Why is that? It has to do with physics. Hurricane Wind Strength Increases at the Square of the Velocity; it doesn't only double. When a 70 miles wind becomes a 140-mile wind, the velocity doubles. Debris now flies around at a speed of 140 miles. But the force of the wind is now 4 times more than before. For example, if a wind speed is 70 mph, the wind pressure is 12.5 psf. A 140 mph wind comes with a force of 50.2 psf. 

Therefore, it is not brave to stay in the home while a Cat 5 is narrowing in. The wind, the lightning, the torrential rain, the flying debris, the storm surge - you pick what you want to fight first. When you decide to ride it out in your home, you have to stay in your home no matter what happens.

Hurricanes are not traveling with lightning speed. When they form in the Atlantic, you have at least a week to prepare yourself. When developing in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea, you still have a few days to make preparations. The whole system usually travels at a speed of 10 - 15 miles/hour; only the swirling wind is faster, but you will only feel that on impact. 

If you find yourself in the area where warnings are issued, be sure to immediately follow the evacuation orders. Don't wait until the last minute if you need to evacuate because you will not be the only one who needs to go. US 41 and I 75 can quickly turn into a huge parking lot when everybody stays until the last minute.