Hurricanes are large, spiraling tropical storms that can pack wind speeds of over 160 mph and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day.
The deadliest U.S. hurricane on record was a Category 4 storm that hit the island city of Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 8, 1900. Some 8,000 people lost their lives when the island was destroyed by 15-ft waves and 130-mph winds.
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In the Atlantic, hurricane season starts June 1, while in the Pacific it starts May 15. Both end on November 30.
When they come onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds and heavy waves can damage buildings, trees and cars. The heavy waves are called a storm surge.
40% of the hurricanes that occur in the United States hit Florida.
The difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane is wind speed – tropical storms usually bring winds of 36 to 47 mph, whereas hurricane wind speeds are at least 74 mph.
Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around the eye. The rotating storm clouds create the “eye wall,” which is the most destructive part of the storm.
Hurricanes are classified into 5 categories, based on their wind speeds and potential to cause damage. Names can be “retired” if a hurricane has been really big and destructive. Retired names include Katrina, Andrew, Mitch and most recently Sandy.
When the National Hurricane Center began giving official names to storms in 1953, they were all female. This practice of using only women’s names ended in 1978.
The costliest hurricane to make landfall was Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm that slammed Louisiana in August of 2005. Damages cost an estimated $108 billion.