Top 91 Questions People Ask About Hurricanes

91 Frequently Asked Questions About Hurricanes and Their Answers

 

Q: Are hurricanes getting stronger?

 

A: The National Ocean Service predicts about 12 hurricanes per year. There has been an uptick in storms, however. In 2020, there were 30 hurricanes, a record high. And not only are storms more frequent, but they are becoming more intense. As sea levels rise and ocean temperatures warm, hurricanes are likely to be more common and more forceful in the future.

 

 

Q: Are there hurricanes in the Pacific?

 

A: Yes, but depending on where the hurricane forms, it may have a different name. The type of storm that qualifies as hurricanes occur all across the planet, but they are given other titles based on where they occur. In the North Atlantic Ocean or East Pacific Ocean, such a storm is a hurricane. In the western North Pacific and Philippines, the storm is a typhoon. In the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean, the storm is a cyclone.

 

 

Q: Can a hurricane cause a tsunami?

 

A: Theoretically, yes, a hurricane could cause a tsunami to form. Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi think that hurricanes can pile up sediment underwater that could then slip, causing a tsunami.

 

 

Q: Can a hurricane form over land?

 

A: Technically, yes, but this is very rare. Because hurricanes need warm water to survive, the chances of such a storm forming over dry land are extremely rare. Between 1851 and 2015, only 2% of hurricanes formed over land.

 

 

Q: Can hurricanes cause tornadoes?

 

A: Yes. When a hurricane reaches landfall, it can cause immense storms to occur over land, including tornado wind storms.

 

 

Q: Can you nuke a hurricane?

 

A: No, you cannot nuke a hurricane, and it would be extremely foolish to fire a nuclear warhead at a hurricane. Not only would the warhead be ineffective in stopping the hurricane, but the winds from the hurricane would disperse the nuclear radiation further out than normal, causing wider and more devastating radiation fallout.

 

 

Q: Do hurricanes hit California?

 

A: Yes and no. While it is true that there has never been a documented case of a hurricane making landfall in California, the Golden State has had its share of close calls with tropical cyclones. Research indicates that California has been affected by at least a few tropical cyclones every decade since 1900. But there is nothing on record of an actual hurricane making landfall in California, just immense storms, rain, and high winds hitting California from tropical cyclones further out in the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

Q: Does Aruba get hurricanes?

 

A: Aruba is south of the hurricane belt, making direct hits from hurricanes rare. The last hurricane to touch the island was Hurricane Felix in 2007. It was a CAT 2 hurricane at the time and caused minor damage.

 

 

Q: Does Costa Rica get hurricanes?

 

A: Though Costa Rica is in the Caribbean, because it is so far south, a hurricane rarely makes landfall over Costa Rica.

 

 

Q: Does Hawaii have hurricanes?

 

A: They are very rare. Because of Hawaii's location, hurricanes don't make landfall in Hawaii or even make it into Hawaiian waters very often. Since recording began, only two hurricanes have made landfall in Hawaii. These were Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and Hurricane Dot in 1959.

 

 

Q: Does hurricane season start in spring?

 

A: Hurricane season begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: Have two hurricanes ever collided?

 

A: Yes! This is called the Fujiwhara effect. When two hurricanes get within 900 miles of each other, they can start to orbit. If they get within 190 miles of each other, they'll collide and merge. This phenomenon is rare, with the only recorded instances of a Fujiwhara Effect occurring in 1933 and 1959.

 

 

Q: How are hurricane names chosen?

 

A: The World Meteorological Association selects names from a list of male and female names used on a six-year rotation basis. There are six lists (for the six-year rotation), with 21 names on the list for the Atlantic hurricanes and 24 names on the list for the Pacific hurricanes. If there are more than 21 Atlantic hurricanes or 24 Pacific hurricanes, the World Meteorological Association switches to names from the Greek alphabet (starting with Alpha and going down to Omega).

 

 

Q: How are hurricanes and tornadoes alike?

 

A: They are alike in that both storms involve cylindrical, vertical, circulating forces of massive wind speed and wind pressure that can move across the surface of the ocean or land.

 

 

Q: How are hurricanes classified/measured?

 

A: Hurricanes are classified and measured using the "CAT" system. "CAT" stands for "Category." The CAT system for hurricanes refers to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The scale's purpose is to rate a hurricane based on its maximum sustained wind speed. The scale is an accurate predictor of the force and severity of a hurricane. However, the scale does not consider storm surges, rainfall, flooding, and potential tornadoes.

 

 

Q: How are hurricanes formed/made/happen/occur/work/start?

 

A: Changes in air pressure and temperature cause hurricanes. A hurricane often starts as a tropical wave (a tropical wave is a low-pressure area that moves through the moisture-rich tropics). The tropical wave sucks heat up from the warm waters of the ocean's surface. As the warm ocean air rises into the storm, that forms low pressure underneath the storm. More air rushes in to fill the low pressure; the air rises and cools, forming clouds and thunderstorms up high. The cycle repeats, building pressure and wind speed all the while. The storm system rotates, pulling more energy from the warm water and adding pressure to the storm.

 

 

Q: How are hurricanes predicted?

 

A: It's all in the wind pressure and speed, as well as certain oceanic factors that occur under the surface. A hurricane is a huge storm. There isn't anything quite like it, which makes it relatively easy to predict. Hurricanes gather heat and energy as they come into contact with warm ocean waters. The winds of a hurricane spiral inward and upward at speeds of 70 to 200 mph, with the potential of causing immense destruction to virtually all man-made objects in its wake. Hurricanes usually last about one day to one week, moving 10 to 20 miles per hour over the open ocean.

 

 

Q: How big is a hurricane?

 

A: Most hurricanes are about 300 miles wide, but they can vary considerably in size. The eye of a hurricane is usually about 20 to 40 miles in diameter.

 

 

Q: How does a hurricane look like?

 

A: A hurricane looks like a massive, turning storm cloud with an "eye" in the center. It is a huge storm system that begins over the ocean and moves across the ocean, sometimes making landfall. A hurricane is a combination of churning, rotating wind that is moving at very high speeds, rain, thunder, and sometimes lightning.

 

 

Q: How fast are hurricane winds?

 

A: The CAT system measures hurricane winds. Consider the following information regarding hurricane wind speed:

 

  • A CAT 1 hurricane has sustained winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour. There will be some very dangerous winds which can produce some damage to homes.

 

  • A CAT 2 hurricane has sustained winds of 96 to 110 miles per hour. There will be extremely dangerous winds and extensive damage to homes.

 

  • A CAT 3 hurricane has sustained winds of 111 to 129 miles per hour. This hurricane is sure to cause devastating damage, including removing roofs of homes and damaging electricity and water infrastructure.

 

  • A CAT 4 hurricane has sustained winds of 130 to 156 miles per hour. Such a storm is officially catastrophic, likely to level homes and completely bring down power lines and trees. Most residential areas struck by a CAT 4 hurricane are uninhabitable for weeks.

 

  • A CAT 5 hurricane has sustained winds of 157 miles per hour or higher. Most homes in the path of such a storm will be destroyed, basic infrastructure in terms of water, electricity, and road networks will be wiped out, rendering the area uninhabitable for months.

 

 

Q: How fast do hurricanes move?

 

A: Hurricanes involve rapid circular wind (74 mph to 157 mph or more), but their forward movement is quite slow. Once a hurricane reaches land, it will move forward at a speed of about 10 to 20 mph.

 

 

Q: How is a tornado different from a hurricane?

 

A: The primary difference between a tornado and a hurricane is that a tornado forms over land, always, and a hurricane almost always forms over the ocean (though a hurricane can move towards land and it can very rarely form over land).

 

 

Q: How long do hurricanes last?

 

A: This depends entirely on the storm. Some hurricanes last only a day, but some can last as long as a month, as Hurricane John did in 1994 when it traveled 8,100 miles over 31 days.

 

 

Q: How long is hurricane season?

 

A: It varies. Hurricane season officially begins on June 1st and officially ends on November 30th. But hurricanes have occurred outside this time frame on multiple occasions.

 

 

Q: How long is hurricane season in Florida?

 

A: The hurricane season in Florida lasts for about five months. Along the Florida peninsula, the peak months for hurricanes are August and September.

 

 

Q: How many categories of hurricanes are there?

 

A: There are five categories of hurricanes, as delineated by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (CAT Scale).

 

 

Q: How often do hurricanes occur?

 

A: Each year, there are an average of 10 tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes) in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico. This is just the average, though. There has been a recent uptick in storms. For example, in 2020, there were 30 hurricanes, a record high.

 

 

Q: How to prepare for a hurricane?

 

A: The best course of action in the face of a hurricane is to evacuate. Most U.S. cities and states are given plenty of warning before a hurricane makes landfall, sometimes even several days of notice.

 

 

Q: How to stay safe during a hurricane?

 

A: Stay away from low-lying and flood-prone areas. Always stay indoors during a hurricane. If you live in a mobile home, seek shelter in a more stable building. If your home is in a low-lying or flood-prone area, go to a shelter. Do not come out until you know the storm is over. You may experience a moment of calm weather, but that could be because you are in the eye of the storm!

 

 

Q: How to survive a hurricane?

 

A: In many ways, surviving a hurricane comes down to a simple exercise of caution. For example, stay indoors until it is safe to come out. Check for injured or trapped people, but do not put yourself at risk. Always be mindful that flooding can occur even after a hurricane has passed. Do not attempt to drive through flooding water and stay away from standing water, as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.

 

 

Q: Is a tropical storm a hurricane?

 

A: No. Quoting the National Ocean Service, "Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 39 miles per hour (mph) are called tropical depressions. Those with maximum sustained winds of 39 mph or higher are called tropical storms. When a storm's maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it is called a hurricane."

 

 

Q: Is the eye of a hurricane calm?

 

A: Yes! The eye of a hurricane is usually quite calm.

 

 

Q: What are hurricane force winds?

 

A: Hurricane force winds are any wind speeds that are fast enough to qualify as hurricane wind. A hurricane-force wind warning is issued when wind speeds of 74 mph or greater are either being observed or are predicted to occur.

 

 

Q: What are hurricanes called in the Pacific Ocean?

 

A: Hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean are given different names depending on where they occur in the Pacific Ocean. In the Northeast Pacific, they are called hurricanes. In the Northwest Pacific, they are called typhoons. In the South Pacific, they are called cyclones.

 

 

Q: What are other names for hurricanes?

 

A: Other names for a hurricane include cyclone and typhoon.

 

 

Q: What are the categories of hurricanes?

 

A: The categories of hurricanes are delineated on a scale of one through five on the "CAT" scale. The scale's purpose is to rate a hurricane based on its maximum sustained wind speed. The scale is an accurate predictor of the force and severity of a hurricane. However, the scale does not consider storm surges, rainfall, flooding, and potential tornadoes.

 

 

Q: What are the effects of a hurricane?

 

A: Hurricanes are often immensely strong and fierce by the time they reach landfall. When a hurricane reaches a coastal area, it can bring with it heavy rains, high winds, storm surges (storm surges are momentarily high sea levels), and even tornadoes. Between heavy rains and storm surges, flooding can ensue. And with high winds, buildings, cars, power lines, and other infrastructure can become damaged or destroyed.

 

 

Q: What direction do hurricanes spin?

 

A: Hurricanes that occur in the Northern Hemisphere always spin counterclockwise, whereas hurricanes in the Southern Hemisphere always spin clockwise.

 

 

Q: What do hurricanes need to form?

 

A: There are a few ingredients needed to form a hurricane. Changes in air pressure and temperature cause hurricanes. A hurricane often starts as a tropical wave (a tropical wave is a low-pressure area that moves through the moisture-rich tropics). The tropical wave sucks heat up from the warm waters of the ocean's surface. As the warm ocean air rises into the storm, that forms low pressure underneath the storm. More air rushes in to fill the low pressure; the air rises and cools, forming clouds and thunderstorms up high. This cycle repeats, building pressure and wind speed all the while. The storm system rotates as all of this occurs, further pulling more energy from the warm water and adding pressure to the storm.

 

 

Q: What does hurricane mean?

 

A: The word "hurricane" comes from the Taino Native American word, "hurucane," meaning "God of the storm." 

 

 

Q: What fuels a hurricane?

 

A: The heat energy caused by warm surface water and air pressure acts as the fuel for a hurricane.

 

 

Q: What happens if two hurricanes collide?

 

A: When two hurricanes collide, they merge and become one hurricane.

 

 

Q: What happens when a hurricane makes landfall?

 

A: When a hurricane makes landfall, it immediately begins to lose energy because it does not have the warm ocean water from which it receives most of its energy. However, hurricanes are still immensely powerful when they reach land and can cause massive destruction to coastal areas.

 

 

Q: What is a category 1 hurricane?

 

A: A CAT 1 hurricane has sustained winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour. There will be some very dangerous winds which can produce some damage to homes.

 

 

Q: What is a category 2 hurricane?

 

A: A CAT 2 hurricane has sustained winds of 96 to 110 miles per hour. There will be extremely dangerous winds and extensive damage to homes.

 

 

Q: What is a category 3 hurricane?

 

A: A CAT 3 hurricane has sustained winds of 111 to 129 miles per hour. This hurricane is sure to cause devastating damage, including removing roofs of homes and damaging electricity and water infrastructure.

 

 

Q: What is a category 4 hurricane?

 

A: A CAT 4 hurricane has sustained winds of 130 to 156 miles per hour. Such a storm is officially catastrophic, likely to level homes and completely bring down power lines and trees. Most residential areas struck by a CAT 4 hurricane are uninhabitable for weeks.

 

 

Q: What is a category 5 hurricane?

 

A: A CAT 5 hurricane has sustained winds of 157 miles per hour or higher. Most homes in the path of such a storm will be destroyed, basic infrastructure in terms of water, electricity, and road networks will be wiped out, rendering the area uninhabitable for months.

 

 

Q: What is a crossfire hurricane?

 

A: A "crossfire hurricane" actually has nothing to do with a hurricane. Rather, "Crossfire Hurricane" was the codename given to the counterintelligence FBI investigation undertaken to examine links between Russian officials and associates of Donald Trump, concerning alleged efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

 

 

Q: What is a hurricane watch?

 

A: A hurricane watch means that the conditions which could form a hurricane are possible. A hurricane watch is one step below a hurricane warning in terms of severity.

 

 

Q: What is a hurricane warning?

 

A: A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected to occur. Individuals living in the path of the expected hurricane should evacuate or take cover as quickly as possible (depending on their unique circumstances).

 

 

Q: What is a land hurricane?

 

A: A "land hurricane" is another name for a "Derecho." The National Weather Service defines a land hurricane/derecho as, "A derecho (pronounced similar to 'deh-REY-cho') is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. As a result, the term 'straight-line wind damage' sometimes is used to describe derecho damage."

 

 

Q: What is an inland hurricane?

 

A: An "inland hurricane" is another name for a "Derecho." The National Weather Service defines a land hurricane/derecho as, "A derecho (pronounced similar to 'deh-REY-cho') is a widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms.... As a result, the term 'straight-line wind damage' sometimes is used to describe derecho damage."

 

 

Q: What is a storm surge in a hurricane?

 

A: Storm surges are momentarily high sea levels that occur as a result of hurricanes. They can cause floods and serious damage to coastal areas.

 

 

Q: What is the center of a hurricane called?

 

A: The center of a hurricane is an area of sinking air, called the "eye of the storm" or the "inner core" of the hurricane. The eye is circular in shape and can range from 2 miles in diameter to 230 miles in diameter.

 

 

Q: What is the dirty side of a hurricane?

 

A: The "dirty side" of a hurricane refers to the storm's right side. It's also called "the bad side." It is named as such because it is generally the more dangerous side of the hurricane.

 

 

Q: What is the eye of a hurricane?

 

A: The eye of a hurricane refers to the relatively calm center of the hurricane storm.

 

 

Q: What is the most dangerous part of a hurricane/worst/strongest?

 

A: Any area within a hurricane can be dangerous, even the storm's eye. But generally speaking, the right side of a hurricane is more dangerous than the left.

 

 

Q: What to do during a hurricane?

 

A: It's not easy to fight a hurricane, no matter how tough you are. The best course of action in the face of a hurricane is to evacuate. Most U.S. cities and states are given plenty of warning before a hurricane makes landfall, sometimes even several days of notice. If emergency managers say to evacuate, do so immediately. If a hurricane strikes and you were not able to evacuate, take shelter in the nearest sturdy building (avoid mobile homes, trailers, and sheds).

 

 

Q: What wind speed is a hurricane?

 

A: Wind speeds during a hurricane begin at 74 mph and can go all the way up to 157 mph or more.

 

 

Q: What's the difference between a cyclone and a hurricane?

 

A: It's all about geography! Or, in this case, the oceanography! The type of storm that qualifies as hurricanes occur all across the planet, but they are given different titles based on where they occur. In the North Atlantic Ocean or East Pacific Ocean, such a storm is a hurricane. In the western North Pacific and Philippines, the storm is a typhoon. In the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean, the storm is a cyclone.

 

 

Q: What's the difference between a hurricane and a cyclone?

 

A: It's all about geography! Or, in this case, the oceanography! The type of storm that qualifies as hurricanes occur all across the planet, but they are given different titles based on where they occur. In the North Atlantic Ocean or East Pacific Ocean, such a storm is a hurricane. In the western North Pacific and Philippines, the storm is a typhoon. In the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean, the storm is a cyclone.

 

 

Q: What's the difference between a tornado and a hurricane?

 

A: The storms are somewhat similar, but a tornado occurs on land whereas a hurricane occurs over the ocean (though hurricanes can approach and even come on to land).

 

 

Q: What's the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane?

 

A: It's all about geography! Or, in this case, the oceanography! The type of storm that qualifies as hurricanes occur all across the planet, but they are given different titles based on where they occur. In the North Atlantic Ocean or East Pacific Ocean, such a storm is a hurricane. In the western North Pacific and Philippines, the storm is a typhoon. In the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean, the storm is a cyclone.

 

 

Q: When does hurricane season begin?

 

A: Hurricane season begins on June 1st (though a hurricane can occur earlier in the year than June 1st).

 

 

Q: When does hurricane season end?

 

A: Hurricane season ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred after November 30th before).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in Hawaii?

 

A: Hurricanes rarely strike Hawaii, but the season for them begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in Louisiana?

 

A: Hurricane season in Louisiana begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in Mexico?

 

A: Hurricane season in Mexico begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in Miami?

 

A: Hurricane season in Miami begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in NC?

 

A: Hurricane season in NC begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in New Orleans?

 

A: Hurricane season in New Orleans begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in Puerto Rico?

 

A: Hurricane season in Puerto Rico begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in South Carolina?

 

A: Hurricane season in South Carolina begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in Texas?

 

A: Hurricane season in Texas begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico?

 

A: Hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season in the United States?

 

A: Hurricane season in the United States begins on June 1st and ends on November 30th (though hurricanes have occurred outside of this time frame).

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season over?

 

A: Hurricane season officially ends on November 30th. Though they are rare, hurricanes do sometimes occur after November 30th.

 

 

Q: When is hurricane season over in Florida?

 

A: Hurricane season officially ends in Florida on November 30th. Though they are rare, hurricanes do sometimes occur in Florida after November 30th.

 

 

Q: When is peak hurricane season?

 

A: Peak hurricane season occurs in August and September.

 

 

Q: When is the Atlantic hurricane season?

 

A: The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th.

 

 

Q: Where are hurricanes formed?

 

A: The most violent storms on Earth, hurricanes form near the equator over warm ocean waters. Hurricanes can occur in any ocean, though they almost always form near the equator.

 

 

Q: Where are hurricanes most common?

 

A: Hurricanes are most common in the Western Pacific, such as the Philippines, Guam, Southeast Asia (including China and Taiwan), and Japan. As for the U.S., the states most often hit by hurricanes are Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

 

 

Q: Where are the strongest winds in a hurricane?

 

A: The strongest winds in a hurricane are in the "eyewall," which is the area of circulating wind immediately outside the eye of the hurricane. Even more specifically, the eyewall of the right quadrant of the hurricane is where the strongest winds will be found.

 

 

Q: Where do birds go during a hurricane?

 

A: Birds usually hunker down before a hurricane storm. They rarely try to fly through one. Most bird species can respond to infrasound and barometric pressure changes that warn them of a coming storm.

 

 

Q: Which side of hurricane is worse?

 

A: The right quadrant of the hurricane will be the side of the hurricane with the highest wind speed, often called the "dirty side" of the storm for that reason.

 

 

Q: Why are hurricanes dangerous?

 

A: A hurricane is a huge storm. There isn't anything quite like it. Hurricanes gather heat and energy as they come into contact with warm ocean waters. The winds of a hurricane spiral inward and upward at speeds of 70 to 200 mph, with the potential of causing immense destruction to virtually all man-made objects in its wake. Hurricanes usually last about one day to one week, moving 10 to 20 miles per hour over the open ocean.

 

 

Q: Why are hurricanes named?

 

A: Hurricanes are given names so that meteorologists can identify them, track them across oceans, and record their unique characteristics and features.

 

 

Q: Why are hurricanes named after females?

 

A: Hurricanes were initially only named after men. But in 1953, to avoid the repetitive use of names, the system was revised so that storms would be given female names too.

 

 

Q: Why do hurricanes spin?

 

A: It all comes down to air pressure, which is the driving force behind hurricanes. Hurricanes are simply areas of low pressure, with a lot of wind moving around those pressure areas. Air always likes to travel from high pressure to low pressure to move toward the storm. As the air moves to the storm (in the northern hemisphere), it will get turned to the right. This then creates a spinning motion that is counterclockwise. The opposite occurs for hurricanes that form in the southern hemisphere.

 

 

Q: Why do hurricanes start in Africa?

 

A: Most hurricanes that hit the United States begin in Africa. There is a source-point off of Africa's west coast, near Cape Verde. In this area, high altitude winds form as a result of two clashing climates. The winds interact with warm equatorial waters and trigger rising columns of warm, moist air over the Atlantic. This is what starts the hurricane, and it moves westward from there.