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The Anatomy of a Storm

It may seem like every time you turn on the TV, meteorologists are talking about another storm forming in the Gulf. So, what does it all mean and when should you be concerned? In order to know how to prepare for any incoming inclement weather, you first need to know about the different types of storms, how they're formed and what to expect if one hits. After all, we're still in the heart of hurricane season, and in fact, this time of the year tends to be the most active. Here's all you need to know about the anatomy of a storm, so that you can be sure you're adequately prepared.

Tropical Depressions

Let's first start with the most mild of all the storm types that may be seen throughout hurricane season, the tropical depression. Before a storm gets powerful enough to have the honor of being named, it likely begins as a tropical depression. This tropical cyclone has maximum sustained surface winds of 38 mph or less with heavy wind and rain present. Otherwise known as an organized group of thunder storms, a tropical depression is typically not serious enough to bring widespread devastation to any areas that it affects. Although not as serious as other types of storms, it's still advised to listen to any recommendations given by weather experts to ensure your safety.

Tropical Storms

Once a tropical depression picks up enough speed, it will move on to become a tropical storm, which then warrants a name. Maximum sustained wind speeds are typically between 39 and 74 mph, and you can expect increased rainfall, heavier winds and a chance of flooding in low-lying areas. Heavy winds can also cause damage to structures, and loss of electricity is commonly found in areas impacted by a tropical storm. This is why having a storm kit at-the-ready can help keep you more comfortable during a tropical storm.


image0 (1)Once a tropical storm gains even more strength, it will then fall into a hurricane category. Hurricanes are categorized by wind speed and fall into the following:

  • Category 1: 74-95 mph winds

  • Category 2: 96-110 mph winds

  • Category 3: 111-129 mph winds

  • Category 4: 130-156 mph winds

  • Category 5: 157 mph winds or higher 

Perhaps the most identifying factor of a hurricane is the eye, which is the area in the center of the storm, free from clouds and wind that almost feels like a perfect summer day. Although you may think the storm has passed once the eye hits, you'll need to remember that the rest of the storm is quickly approaching. The most dangerous part of a hurricane is the eye wall, which is the area in which the wind blows in the same direction as the forward motion of the storm.

The storm surge hits as the storm makes landfall. In this moment, heavy rains, winds and tornadoes can be present and depending on the severity of the storm, sheer devastation can occur. Storm surges have been known to wipe out coastal areas, which means evacuating these areas is a must.

Hurricane Watches and Warnings

It's important to know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions could possibly affect your area, whereas a hurricane warning means that a hurricane's impact is imminent. The most important thing you'll need to remember is to listen to instructions. If your local officials mandate you to evacuate, it's imperative that you evacuate. This is why having a solid hurricane plan in place before storm time is advised.

Now that you know more about the anatomy of a storm, it will help you better prepare and plan ahead this hurricane season. Remember to keep up with our hurricane guides to ensure you're doing your best to stay ready for any inclement weather this year and every year.


Topics: hurricane preparedness, Hurricane Season 2020, Anatomy of a Storm

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