Hurricane Flag


Occasionally things get a little windy (Opal '95 - 150mph/240kph), and there's some rain (Georges '98 - 45+ inches/114+ cm in 48 hours), and the surf kicks up a little bit (Opal '95 - 20 foot/6 meter storm surge), but we don't have earthquakes.

The 1st of June until the 1st of December is the Official Hurricane Season. If you live here, you have accepted the probably that, sooner or later, you will be inconvenienced by a hurricane (approximately three days without electricity, the water is suspect, the sewers don't work, trees and shingles all over, boats in the road).

Actually the really interesting storms don't show up until the end of July, and the probability of a large storm drops off in the middle of October. The reason is the water temperature: tropical storms require warm water to develop and grow (because of the swampy conditions in south Florida, Andrew did not die out).

If there were no other factors, storms would move in a northeasterly direction at our latitudes, but water currents, high altitude winds, and the presence of other weather systems can all affect the movement (Danny stopped in Mobile Bay, Elena cruised back and forth along the coast, Opal did a figure-eight over the Yucatan).

If you take up tracking hurricanes, watch the pressure. Pressure relates to wind speed, but, more importantly, changes in pressure indicate what the storm is doing: decreasing pressure - strengthening, increasing pressure - dying.

Pressure also relates to water level. Sea level rises one foot for every inch the barometric pressure drops (about a centimeter per millibar).

You want hurricanes to come ashore East of you, because the strongest winds and the thunderstorm bands (with tornadoes) are, usually, east of the eye of the storm. The furthest East major band is the primary location of tornados and the heaviest rainfall.

Storm Classification

Classification Wind Speed Pressure Storm Surge
Miles/Hour Knots Km/Hour Inches Millibars Feet Meters
Gale 38-55 33-48 61-89 --- --- --- ---
Storm 56-74 49-64 90-119 --- --- < 3 < 1
Category One 75-96 65-83 120-154 > 28.94 > 979 3-5 1-2
Category Two 97-110 84-96 155-178 28.94-28.50 979-965 6-8 2-3
Category Three 111-130 97-113 179-209 28.49-27.91 964-945 9-12 3-4
Category Four 131-155 114-135 210-250 27.90-27.17 944-920 13-18 4-6
Category Five > 155 > 135 > 250 < 27.17 < 920 > 18 > 6

If you decide to do your own hurricane tracking, Tracking the Eye is a pretty good program. You can automatically download current coordinates from their web site and customize the program for your location.

They include a Hurricane preparation checklist in the program and provide you with historic tracks so you can see the storms that the old-timers talk about.

The program is shareware, so you can try it, but register it before a hurricane wanders by, because the Web position updates are only available to registered users.

Hurricane Information Sites:

Hurricanes - a seasonal site of Weather Underground. Large graphics, rapid updates.

National Hurricane Center - the official word, but a very busy site.

Federal Emergency Management Agency - good access and a mirror for information from the NHC during Clinton, but the Bush team decided no one was interested and discontinued the service.

The Weather Channel - very condensed, non-technical information.

Conversion Factors:

To convert Universal/Greenwich Mean/Z Time to Central Daylight Saving Time subtract 5 hours.

To convert millibars to inches multiply by 0.029536 (OK, .03 is probably close enough).

To convert Knots to Miles/hour multiply by 1.151 (OK, 1.15 will get it).

Personal Hurricane Hints:

A cellular telephone with a dead battery is worse than no phone. Charge everything that needs charging well in advance of the storm hitting.

Everyone will be friendlier if you shower after securing the lawn furniture and before the power goes out.

If you intend to use the water in the bathtub for anything other than flushing the toilet, be sure to clean the bathtub well and slosh it down with chlorine bleach before filling.

You do not want to be caught in a 150-mile-long traffic jam for twelve hours in 100mph winds with an extremely annoyed cat in the cab of a compact pickup truck. If you are going to evacuate, do it earlier rather than later.

Do not use camp stoves or barbecue grills inside. Most air conditioned homes don't allow adequate ventilation when the power goes out, and carbon monoxide poisoning is a real threat.

For the same reason, keep gasoline-powered generators outside with the exhaust pointing away from the house. Don't connect the generator to your house wiring, plug the appliance directly into the generator.

Remember a generator is producing electricity. Standing in a puddle of water while plugging something into it, or having it in a wet location are potentially fatal mistakes.

An empty gasoline can is yard debris. Don't store gasoline containers in the same area as a natural gas water heater, or any appliance with a pilot light.

Don't use candles or Coleman lanterns if you have pets or small children. Fires are started quickly, and firemen can't respond in the middle of a hurricane.

If it will take half a tank of gas to get to the nearest gas station, there's not much point in going without a gas can.

Don't go out during the passage of the eye. The sun may be shining and the birds singing, but the hours of roaring hell that have just finished are about to start again, with the wind direction reversed.

Don't go sight-seeing after a hurricane. If you have finished your clean-up, help a neighbor. The only difference between sight-seers and looters is the looters have a reason for being on the road.

Sea TurtleReturn to West Florida

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