Hurricane season is upon us once again. Those of us who live inland are not as familiar with the facts about these awful storms as the people who live on the coast. But, regardless of where you live, it’s important to know about the forces of nature.
Below are 10 interesting facts about hurricanes that might just blow your hair back.
10. If you look it in the eye, it will tell you its secrets.
A ragged, symmetrical eye means the storm is struggling to maintain its strength, while a smooth, round one signals a strong, stable storm. Oddly though, the smaller the eye is, the more intense the storm.
9. Hurricane Patricia is the strongest hurricane ever recorded.
She made landfall on the western coast of Mexico in 2015 as a huge category 5, with sustained winds of 210 mph off the coast and 150 mph when she made landfall.
8. There are only hurricanes in North America.
While a mature tropical cyclone is known as a hurricane in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Ocean, it’s called a typhoon when it appears near Asia and a cyclone everywhere else in the world.
7. The wind is only part of the danger.
Weather reports typically focus on wind speeds, but more than half of the deaths related to hurricanes result from the storm surge, which is when the ocean water is pushed inland by the winds.
6. They get names so we can keep track of them.
Meteorologists began naming hurricanes in the 1950s to make it easier for forecasters and news reporters to talk about them. Today, the Atlantic and eastern Pacific oceans each get a separate list of alternating names that are reused every six years.
5. The greatest danger is in the eyewall.
The bands of wind and rain that spiral out from the center of a hurricane cause damage, flooding, and tornadoes. But the eyewall — the tight group of thunderstorms in the center — causes the most damage with its winds when it hits the shore.
4. Hurricane Hunters are a thing.
They’re basically Helen Hunt in Twister, except they fly specially outfitted airplanes into the middle of storms to measure wind speeds and other meteorological data. They also drop sensors called dropsondes inside storms to read their activity.
3. The name of a particularly bad storm is usually retired.
There’s no use tempting fate, I suppose, which is why the names of the most destructive and deadly hurricanes are taken out of circulation. Since hurricane names first started being recorded back in 1954, more than 80 names have been retired. For example, Matthew and Otto were retired after the 2016 hurricane season, and will be replaced by Martin and Owen the next time their letters roll around.
And, in case you were wondering, yes, Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, and Maria have all also been retired.
2. The eye is warm.
This might not surprise you considering it’s a tropical storm, but since the eye is formed by air rushing down from the atmosphere to replace low pressure that’s being sucked away from the surface, the temperatures in the eye exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit even thousands of feet above the Earth’s surface.
1. California has different problems.
It seems a little weird that a state with hundreds of miles of coastline rarely deals with hurricane threats. While they certainly have their own issues with earthquakes and fires, to be sure, the colder temperatures of the Pacific ocean make hurricanes more unlikely. The worst one in history hit San Diego in 1858 and was only a category 1.