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
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
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.
Hurricanes often spawn tornadoes far from the center of the storm.