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55 Random Facts About Hurricanes
21. The largest hurricane can be the size of the state of Montana, 600 miles (966 kilometers) wide.
22. Hurricanes never combine to form one stronger storm. However, the storms may circle each other, which is known as the Fujiwhara effect.
23. Hurricanes never form at the equator because they need the Coriolis Force, which is very weak at the equator, to spin.
24. Although hurricanes can cause terrible damage, they are an important part of Earth’s complicated weather system. Like giant fans, they take hot air from the tropics and move it toward the poles. They help balance temperatures and moisture around the Earth. Without hurricanes and other storms, vast areas of the planet would be too hot for animal and human life.
25. In A.D. 1281, a hurricane killed 100,000 Mongols who were attacking Japan. The Japanese thanked their storm gods for the kamikaze, which means divine wind from the gods.
26. During the Galveston hurricane of 1900, nuns used ropes to tie themselves to rows of children in orphanages, but the
floodwater was too hard and fast. People found the nuns still tied to the children after the flood. They had all drowned.
27. There are several differences between hurricanes and tornadoes. First, hurricanes last several days; tornadoes last only minutes (or, rarely, hours). Hurricanes are on average about 2,000 times bigger across than tornadoes. As an analogy, if a tornado were as wide as a hamburger, a hurricane would be the length of an entire football stadium.
28. Tornadoes have more intense winds than hurricanes. For example, the fastest recorded hurricane wind speed is approximately 200 mph. Tornado winds can be up to 300 mph.
29. Hurricanes often spawn tornadoes. For example, Hurricane Andrew (1992) spawned 62 tornadoes, and Hurricane Beulah (1967) created a whopping 141 tornadoes. Tornadoes can occur days after a hurricane’s landfall.
30. The terms “hurricane,” “typhoon,” and “cyclone” are different names for the same type of storm, a tropical cyclone. Tropical cyclones that occur in the Atlantic Ocean or eastern Pacific Ocean are called hurricanes; in the western Pacific Ocean they are called typhoons (from the Cantonese word tai-fun); and in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, tropical cyclones are called cyclones (from the Greek word for “coiled snake”). In Australia, hurricanes are called “willy-willies.”
31. There are six separate lists for Atlantic hurricanes, with one list used each year. Each list is repeated every 7th year. However, officials retire names of hurricanes that have caused a great deal of damage or death. Retired names include Andrew, Camille, Bob, Fran, Katrina, and Hugo.
32. In 1953, the National Weather Service adopted the Navy’s practice of naming Atlantic hurricanes after women. Previously, hurricanes were named either according to their longitude and latitude or were identified by the phonetic alphabet (Able, Baker, Charlie, etc.). In 1979, meteorologists added men’s names to alternate with women’s names. The first three male names ever used for hurricanes (Bob, David, and Frederick) all are retired.
33. Hurricanes spin around a low-pressure center called the “eye.” Sinking air makes this 20- to 30-mile-wide area calm and free of clouds. A thick ring of clouds called the “eye wall” surrounds the eye and is the strongest part of the hurricane.
34. Though the eye is the calmest part of the storm, over the ocean, it can be the most dangerous area. While waves in the eye wall travel in the same direction, waves in the eye converge from all directions, which often creates rogue waves.
35. Since pilots first began flying into typhoons and hurricanes in 1944, only four planes have been lost in the storms. No trace of these planes or their crew has ever been found.
36. Water must be a certain depth for hurricanes to form, at least 200 feet (60 m). Additionally, the water must be warm, over 80º F (27 º C). A hurricane’s strength depends on how warm the water is—the warmer the water, the stronger the hurricane becomes.
37. A tropical storm is classified as a hurricane when sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour, though hurricane winds are often faster. When a tropical cyclone’s sustained wind speed is between 39-74 mph, it is classified as a tropical storm. When its winds are less than 38 mph, a tropical cyclone is called a tropical depression.
38. For a hurricane to form, there needs to be (1) a pre-existing condition disturbance with thunderstorms, (2) warm water (at least 80 º F) to a depth of 150 ft., and (3) light upper-level winds.
39. Each year, approximately 10 tropical storms form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Out of these, six become hurricanes.
40. Approximately five hurricanes strike the U.S. coastline during an average three-year period. Of these, two are major hurricanes over 110 mph.