Hurricanes are giant whirlwinds with winds of 75 mph or more
The Associated Press developed an excellent animation demonstrating hurricane intensity. It shows the typical damage caused by hurricanes at each of the five intensity categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale. In addition, you can view 150 years of historical data and maps of hurricanes that have hit the U.S. Mainland.
Hurricanes are tropical cyclones with extremely high winds that blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center of low pressure known as the eye of the hurricane. These violent storms can bring devastating destruction in their erratic path. This circulation is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Near the center, hurricane winds may gust to more than 200 mph. The entire storm may dominate tens of thousands of square miles.
The eye, like the spiral structure of the storm, is unique to hurricanes. Here, winds are light and skies are clear or partly cloudy. However, this calm is deceptive, as it is bordered by maximum force winds and torrential rains. Many persons have been killed or injured when the calm eye lured them out of shelter, only to be caught in the maximum winds at the far side of the eye, where the wind blows from a direction opposite of that in the leading half of the storm.
While hurricane winds do a lot damage, drowning is the greatest cause of deaths in a hurricane. As the storm approaches and moves across the coastline, it brings huge waves and storm tides which may reach 25 feet or more above normal. The rise may come rapidly, flooding coastal lowlands. Waves and currents erode beaches and barrier islands, undermine structures and wash out highway and railroad beds. The accompanying torrential rains produce sudden flooding as the storm moves inland. As its winds diminish, rainfall floods constitute the hurricane’s greatest threat.
The hurricanes that strike the eastern United States are born in the tropical and subtropical North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Most occur in August, September and October; however, the six-month period from June 1 to November 20 is considered the Atlantic hurricane season.
Noteworthy Records of the Atlantic Hurricane Season
* Source: NOAA
Categories & Wind Speed:
1 Minimal (74-95 mph)......................Example: Hurricane Erin (1995)
2 Moderate (96-110 mph)......................Example: Hurricane Frances (2004)
3 Extensive (111-130 mph)......................Examples: Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne (2004)
4 Extreme (131-155 mph)...........Examples: Hurricane Charley (2004); Hurricanes Dennis & Emily (2005)
5 Catastrophic (156 + mph)......................Examples: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma (2005)
To report an outage by phone, call 1-800-SECO-141 (1-800-732-6141) or your local SECO office and follow the prompts. To report an outage online go to SECO's Storm Center/report.
Page last updated: October 29, 2012