There is no doubt that you have heard or seen the destructive powers of Hurricane Irma, a category 5 (max level) hurricane that has caused havoc among most of the Caribbean and specific parts of America. The photos found online of the wreckage are chilling, and the best thing we can do to help is support charitable foundations that are sending aid to families in need. Reports say that another hurricane is coming up right behind Irma, so it is a good time to understand a few things about hurricanes and our safety when encountering them.
It is hurricane season throughout North and Central America, or more specifically, hurricane, typhoon and cyclone season. Usually affiliated with high winds, heavy downpour, flooding, mudslides and tornadoes, hurricane season runs anywhere from the beginning of June to the end of November, depending on where a person may live. Reported by the U.S. International Travel Agency, there has been a spike in hurricanes over the past few years, with over 10 of the 32 storms being hurricanes in 2013. Other seasons, such as typhoon season, occur during other parts of the year, specifically April to December. Regardless, in places like Central Americas, you must always be prepared to face a hurricane at any moment, which we will discuss later.
You may have actually heard about names for certain hurricanes making constant reappearances in the news, such as Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma. As much as I want to tell you a fictional story of how the Irma was conceived for a hurricane, I can’t. News reporters simply name hurricanes so that it is easy for civilians to remember. It is much easier to remember “Harvey” than “029123342” as a name, which is the sole reason for the common person name rather than coordinates of latitude and longitude. The other reason why such hurricanes are given names are due to their reoccurrence every single year, allowing for the same six names to be reused for as long as the hurricane survives. Some retired names that you may be familiar with are Katrina (seen below), Irene, and Sandy, all hurricanes from the past 10 years.
Hurricanes reoccur due to their conception process. Hurricanes are only made above warm ocean waters, as they use the warm air as “fuel,” creating a low-pressure area when the warm air rises. As a result, air begins to push into the low-pressure area, leading to swirls of air collecting just above the water. The more the system of clouds grow, the larger the hurricane. Eventually, the swirling air collects so much, and spins so fast, that an “eye” forms, a hole in the centre. It would actually be possible to put someone like you into the centre of the eye perfectly safely, as there is only very low air pressure there. After reaching a certain benchmark, 74 mph winds, the storm is officially called a hurricane. The return of hurricanes correspond to the flow of warm air across the world, a cycle that explains the annual return of some hurricanes like Katrina in the past.
The way to defeat a hurricane? Easy. Put it onto land. Yes, people will be displaced, and frogs may rain from the sky, but the hurricane loses it’s source of “power,” the warm air, and eventually dissipates to a few gusts of wind. Depending on the wind speed, the damage predicted by the hurricane can range anywhere from minimal (74-95 mph), to catastrophic (157 mph or higher). To clarify, hurricane Irma was initially reported as a level 4, extreme hurricane, and was upgraded to catastrophic a few days ago. You can see for yourself how dangerous a level 5 hurricane is, just Google it.
So… what do you do in an impending hurricane? Sit and pray that the wind shaves your grass and just pulls a garden gnome or two into natures very own vacuum cleaner? No. Rather, your best bet to stay as far below ground as possible. While strong winds can easily topple shelters and even trees, wind itself moves horizontally, not straight down. By staying below the level of wind whooshing by, you are the safest you can possibly be. Big No-No’s are hiding under places where the wind may speed up due to the architecture of the building, such as bridges. Also, avoid going near power lines, as their structural integrity is not enough to keep it from falling on you. And most importantly, DO NOT leave safety or shelter when you feel the storm calm down. Chances are, you are in the midst of the eye of the hurricane, which means round 2 is coming very soon.
In the hurricane season, let us give our best wishes to those who will be battling a few more months of rough winds and heavy downpours, and give our all to helping those in need. Stay safe everyone.