What You Need to Know About Florida's Hurricane Season

Hurricane Issac in 2012
••• Do you know what to do if a hurricane threatens Florida?. Compliments of NASA

Hurricanes are violent tropical storms with sustained winds of at least 74 mph. They form over warm ocean waters – usually starting as storms in the Caribbean or off the west coast of Africa. As they drift slowly westward, they are fueled by the warm waters of the tropics. Warm, moist air moves toward the center of the storm and spirals upward. This releases torrential rains. As updrafts suck up more water vapor, it triggers a cycle of strengthening that can be stopped only when contact is made with land or cooler water.

Hurricane Terms

  • Tropical Depression - an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
  • Tropical Storm - an organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34-63 knots).
  • Hurricane - a warm-core tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or greater.
  • Eye - center a hurricane with light winds and partly cloudy to clear skies. The eye is usually around 20 miles in diameter but can range between 5 and 60 miles.
  • Eye Wall - location within a hurricane where the most damaging winds and intense rainfall are found.
  • Severe Thunderstorm - a thunderstorm with winds 58 mph or faster or hailstones three-quarters of an inch or larger in diameter.
  • Tornadoes - violent rotating columns of air that touch the ground; they are spawned by large severe thunderstorms. They can have winds estimated from 100 to 300 mph.
  • Tornado Watch - tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are possible.
  • Tornado Warning - tornadoes are detected in your area. Take shelter!

    Hurricane Scale

    • Category I - 74-95 mph winds with 4-5 ft. storm surge and minimal damage
    • Category II - 96-110 mph winds with 6-8 ft. storm surge and moderate damage
    • Category III - 111-130 mph winds with 9-12 ft. storm surge and major damage
    • Category IV - 131-155 mph winds with 13-18 ft. storm surge and severe damage
    • Category V - 155+ mph winds with 18+ ft. storm surge and catastrophic damage

    Hurricane Warnings

    • Tropical Storm Watch - issued when tropical storm conditions may threaten a specific coastal area within 36 hours, and when the storm is not predicted to intensify to hurricane strength.
    • Tropical Storm Warning - winds in the range of 39 to 73 mph can be expected to affect specific areas of a coastline within the next 24 hours.
    • Hurricane Watch - a hurricane or hurricane conditions may threaten a specific coastal area within 36 hours.
    • Hurricane Warning - a warning that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher associated with a hurricane are expected in a specified coastal area in 24 hours or less.

      What to Do When a Hurricane Watch is Issued

      • Monitor radio and TV broadcasts for information regarding the storm's progress.
      • Fuel-up the family or rental car.
      • Refill prescriptions for your family and pets, ensuring at least a two-week supply.
      • Get cash, since ATMs and banks may run out of money before the storm or not be operational following the storm.
      • Review your plans. Find out if you will be forced to evacuate where you are staying if the storm threatens your area. Locate evacuation routes which will take you inland to save shelter.

      What to Do When a Hurricane Warning is Issued

      • Monitor radio and TV broadcasts for storm advisories and evacuation announcements.
      • Gather belongings in case of an evacuation order.

      What to Do If an Evacuation Order is Issued

      • Leave immediately.
      • Take any survival supplies you may have such as bottled water.
      • Take medicines and/or special needs equipment.
      • Pet, alcoholic beverages, and weapons are NOT allowed in shelters (make prior plans for pets).
      • Stay calm and take your time. Traffic will be heavy and move slowly, but there is sufficient time to reach safety.