Don't wait until your radio blares out a hurricane warning. There's a lot you can do to protect yourself, your family, your pets, and your home -- if you act in time.
The devastation from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita has made more Americans appreciate the wrath of Mother Nature. The effects of that disaster brought home the message that these storms touch everyone's lives.
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One in six Americans live in a county on the Atlantic or Gulf coasts where hurricanes pose yearly threats. Even if we don't live in these areas, many of us vacation in areas of the U.S., the Caribbean, or Mexico where hurricanes habitually hit.
Unfortunately, it may have taken the impact of Katrina and Rita to make people realize that riding out a hurricane is always a big mistake.
U.S. hurricane season runs from June through November. Mid-August to late October is peak season.
How Hurricanes Harm
By definition, hurricanes pack sustained high winds of 74 mph or more. Gusts can be much faster. Hurricane Camille in 1969 set the record for the highest wind speed ever to hit the Western hemisphere. It had sustained winds of 190 mph at landfall.
It's not just the wind that's a worry. Items such as toys left in the yard, signs, and construction materials become deadly missiles in hurricane-force gales.
Storm Surge and Storm Tide
A storm surge is a dome of water -- topped by battering waves -- that sweeps the coastline when a hurricane hits the shore. At the water's edge, it's the greatest threat to life and property. Storm surges can be 50 or even 100 miles wide. A 15-foot storm surge is not unusual for a major storm.
Katrina's storm surge was 20-30 feet, but the real clincher in New Orleans was that the system of levees was overwhelmed.
The storm tide is the storm surge combined with the normal tide. If it's high tide when a hurricane hits, the storm surge adds to the water's height. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo caused a 20-foot storm tide in South Carolina. Tornadoes
Hurricanes often spawn tornadoes far from the center of the storm.