Myth Busters: 10 Myths about Hurricanes Unraveled
The hurricane season rages on with Hurricanes Lester, Madeline and Gaston looming in the Pacific. The tropical depression meanwhile is threatening Florida and waiting to unleash its fair share of rain and gusts on the Gulf coast. The Weather Channel’s Annual Hurricane Week was under way officially in the last week of August. So, we thought it pertinent to debunk some of the misleading information, misplaced beliefs and myths about hurricanes.
1 – Typhoons are different from Hurricanes
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all the same weather phenomenon; we just use different names for these storms in different places. In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, the term “hurricane” is used. The same weather event in the Northwest Pacific is called a “typhoon” and “cyclones” occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
2 – You are safe from a hurricane inland
Hurricanes have the capacity to bring strong winds, heavy rain, tornadoes and inland flooding hundreds of miles from the sea coast. According to National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Allison caused a damage worth $4.8 billion in Houston. This is despite the fact that the storm made landfall at a considerable distance from the city. Similarly, Hurricane Camille brought about the death of 150 people in Virginia despite making landfall in Mississippi.
3 – Storm surge accounts for the most damage in a hurricane
As the center of the hurricane makes landfall, the strong gusty winds push the body of water across the sea coast. A storm surge can certainly be lethal but the greatest damage is caused by the inland flooding and flash floods from rivers and streams.
4 – It’s safer to take refuge in the upper floors of your residence during a hurricane
The higher you go up during a storm, the wind speed increases. This also increases the threat of the sides being ripped off and the windows being blown away. Moreover, rising water levels and strong winds can cause structural levels to the lower portions of condominiums and hence render evacuation a tricky affair.
5 – Why even care when I don’t stand a chance against a powerful hurricane
Yes there’s always a possibility of you losing everything from your house to other materialistic possessions but little precautions can prove to be the difference between a total loss to minimal destruction. Preparing for the natural disaster implies that you are making an effort to minimize your loss as much as possible.
6 – Fill bathtubs and buckets before a storm to use as drinking water
While the water stored in bathtubs, buckets and sinks may be used for washing, bathing and other household chores, it certainly is not fit for drinking purposes. It is always advisable to use bottled water for drinking.
7 – A tied down mobile home is a safe refuge in a storm
A mobile home, even if tied down, is never a safe option to ride out a hurricane. If mandatory evacuation is announced by the National Weather Service, residents of all mobile homes should follow the instructions.
8 – Leave the windows open during a hurricane
It is believed that opened windows help equalize the external and internal air pressures and hence prevent houses from exploding. However, shuttering up windows protect your house from flying debris and it is always safe to keep the wind out.
9 – Taping the windows protects the house in a hurricane
Taping might not be able to protect the windows from flying debris. Moreover, glass breaks into large shards instead of small pieces which can be fatal for the residents. Hurricane shutters are the way to go!
10 – Strong winds are responsible for deaths in a hurricane
Studies indicate that only 10% deaths related to hurricanes are caused by gusty winds while the death toll due to storm surges and rainfall is as high as 90%.
11 – Evacuation means to travel hundreds of miles away from the hurricane
Evacuation is ordered by the local emergency management department to protect people for storm surges. So, when evacuation is required, you are supposed to just get to higher ground away from water.
12 – Storm surge occurs near the ocean
Storm surge can take place in lakes and bays. The storm surge in Lake Okeechobee in 1928 killed 2,500 people.
13 – Hurricane season spans from June to August
Hurricane season starts from June 1 and ends on November 30. October is a pretty bad month for hurricanes.
14 – Category 4 hurricanes are dangerous than Category 2
Categories in hurricanes are specific to the wind speeds and do not account for the rainfall, inland flooding and flash flooding that a storm might trigger. Even a tropical depression could have a bigger impact as opposed to a tropical storm or even a hurricane.
15 – Hurricanes and other tropical storms are named randomly
The list containing the names of hurricanes and other tropical storms is maintained by the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and six lists are rotated. A name is only excluded from a list if the storm associated with it caused such massive damage that its future use would be insensitive.