FACT OR MYTH: Taking a look at what’s true and what’s not when it comes to tropical cyclones

Safety in the Storm

Source: NOAA, National Hurricane Center

(WFXR) – Warmer weather means the threat for hurricanes ramps up and, as many of us know, you don’t have to be right on the coast to see some dangerous weather that’s associated with these types of systems.

Below, are ten statements about tropical cyclones – some are true and some are not. We look at the validity of some common thoughts regarding tropical cyclones.

1. The eye of a hurricane is the most dangerous part of the storm.

  • MYTH: The eyewall (the location just outside of the actual eye of the storm) has the most dangerous winds. In the image below of Hurricane Florence, the puffy clouds on the outside of the eye are associated with the eyewall.
FILE – In this Sept. 12, 2018 photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Florence churns over the Atlantic Ocean heading for the U.S. east coast as seen from the International Space Station. Astronaut Alexander Gerst, who shot the photo, tweeted: “Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It’s chilling, even from space.” (Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA via AP)

2. A Category 1 hurricane is no big deal.

  • MYTH: The Saffir-Simpson scale, which categorizes wind speeds in a storm, will have winds between 74-95 mph, which is comparable to an EF-0 or EF-1 tornado. This speed of wind can uproot trees, remove shingles from a roof and can break windows caused by flying debris.

3. Water (storm surge & flooding) is the number one killer in hurricanes.

  • FACT: Around 76% of all storm-related fatalities are the result of water.

4. Once inland, hurricanes dissipate quickly.

  • MYTH: Once a storm is on land, it tends to lose the energy it needs to keep its strength – that energy, being warm ocean water. Once it loses that access, the weakening process tends to begin, but it can take several days of being on land for a storm to weaken enough to lose its tropical characteristics.

5. Tropical systems in the Atlantic basin can start as far away as Africa.

  • FACT: During the heart of hurricane season (usually between August and September) — when a low pressure exits the west coast of Africa and moves west over the open Atlantic — it can quickly turn into a tropical cyclone, as long as it maintains its circulation. Some key factors that help fuel the tropical system are the ocean water is warm enough (usually at least 80-degrees) and the upper-level wind sheer is weak.

6. Taping your windows is an effective way to protect your window from breaking.

  • MYTH: The only way to potentially protect your window is to board them up or install shutters over the window. Taping your windows offer absolutely no protection against the attributes from the storm.
A notice of temporary closing due to approaching Typhoon Hagibis is posted on the taped window of a restaurant in Shibuya district, Tokyo Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Tokyo and surrounding areas braced for a powerful typhoon forecast as the worst in six decades, with streets and trains stations unusually quiet Saturday as rain poured over the city. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

7. The roof and windows are the only parts of the home prone to hurricane damage.

  • MYTH: If you’re in an area where winds are over hurricane force, any crack or crevice that is exposed to the elements can collect water which will in-turn enter the home and cause water damage. It’s always a good idea to have a professional examine the exterior of your home and fix anywhere where water can get inside.

8. Even several hundred miles inland, we don’t have to worry about hurricanes.

  • MYTH: Inland flooding, damaging winds and tornadoes associated with hurricanes have, and do, occur well inland. Some of the highest rainfall totals we have seen have come from tropical cyclones/hurricanes.

9. The eye of a hurricane is only a few miles in diameter.

  • FACT AND MYTH: While it’s true that the eye of a storm can be only a few miles in diameter, storms have had a history of being several dozen miles in diameter. The general rule of thumb: the stronger the hurricane, the tighter…or smaller, the eye.

10. Tropical cyclones can spin over the open ocean for weeks.

  • FACT: Several tropical cyclones have spent weeks over the open water before ultimately either coming ashore or dissipating. Back in 1994, Hurricane/Typhoon John lasted a full 31 days over the open water moving from south of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean, moving west into the Central Pacific — halfway across the ocean — before turning north toward Alaska and dissipating.

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