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Hurricane Information Center - Hurricanes 101

A hurricane is a severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico or in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes need warm tropical oceans, moisture and light winds above them. If the right conditions last long enough, a hurricane can produce violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains and floods.

Hurricanes rotate in a counterclockwise direction around an "eye." Hurricanes have winds at least 74 miles per hour. There are on average six Atlantic hurricanes each year; over a three-year period, approximately five hurricanes strike the United States coastline from Texas to Maine.

When hurricanes move onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds and heavy waves can damage buildings, trees and cars. The heavy waves are called a storm surge. Storm surge is very dangerous and a major reason why you must stay away from the ocean during a hurricane warning or hurricane.

Storm Surge Overview

Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. In the past, large death tolls have resulted from the rise of the ocean associated with many of the major hurricanes that have made landfall. Learn More

Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale

The Saffir/Simpson Scale rates the present intensity of a hurricane from one to five. This can be used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected. In practice, wind speed is the parameter that determines the intensity category since storm surge is highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf.

Scale Wind Speed (MPH) Storm Surge (FT) Damage
1 74-95 4-5 Minor
2 96-110 6-8 Moderate
3 111-129 9-12 Major
4 130-156 13-18 Severe
5 Greater Than 157 Greater Than 18 Catastrophic

Terms

Hurricane: A severe tropical cyclone with sustained wind speeds in excess of 74 mph (64 knots).

Hurricane Watch: Possible hurricane conditions within 36 hours. This watch should trigger your family's disaster plan and protective measures should be initiated.

Hurricane Warning: Sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 24 hours or less. Complete all storm preparations and evacuate if directed by local officials.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Hurricane Names

Atlantic 2019

Andrea
Barry
Chantal
Dorian
Erin
Fernand
Gabrielle
Humberto
Imelda
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Nestor
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy

Source: National Hurricane Center