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A hurricane is a powerful tropical cyclone with sustained winds of at least 74 mph that often measures several hundred miles in diameter. All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes and tropical storms. Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast often experience heavy rains and floods from hurricanes spawned off Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June through November with the peak season from mid-August to late October.
Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Sustained winds in the strongest hurricanes (Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) can exceed 155 miles per hour with higher gusts. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes, create damaging storm surge inundation along the coast and cause extensive flood damage along the coast and inland from heavy rainfall.
Hurricanes Have Two Main Parts:
How Hurricanes Form
There are several favorable environmental conditions that must be in place before a hurricane can form. They are:
A hurricane goes through many stages as it develops:
When a Hurricane Strikes
When hurricanes move onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds, storm surge and crashing waves can damage buildings, trees, cars, and other infrastructure. Winds pile up and push ocean and bay waters towards the coast which is known as the storm surge. Water weighs approximately 1,700 pounds per cubic yard and the pounding of frequent waves can demolish structures not designed to withstand such forces. The combination of storm surge and the prevailing tide levels are called the storm tide. The powerful and extremely dangerous force of storm tides and crashing waves is the major reason why you MUST stay away from coastal areas during a tropical storm or hurricane warning.
Technical Information Provided by FEMA, the National Hurricane Center, and the National Weather Service.
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