Hurricanes

Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Hurricanes are severe tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes gather heat and energy through contact with warm ocean waters. Evaporation from the seawater increases their power.


Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around an “eye.” Hurricanes have winds at least 74 miles per hour. 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. Storm surges are very dangerous and a major reason why people MUST stay away from the ocean during a hurricane warning or hurricane.

Hurricane Classification

Hurricanes are classified into five categories, based on their wind speeds and potential to cause damage.

  • Category One—Winds 74-95 miles per hour
  • Category Two—Winds 96-110 miles per hour
  • Category Three—Winds 111-130 miles per hour
  • Category Four—Winds 131-155 miles per hour
  • Category Five—Winds greater than 155 miles per hour

In the U.S., the official hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, but hurricanes can happen any time of the year. Hurricanes are named by the National Weather Service. Some recent hurricanes have been named Opal, Andrew, Marilyn, Hugo and Fran.

Terms to Know

Hurricane Watch A hurricane is possible within 36 hours. Stay tuned to the radio and television for more information. The Hurricane Center is tracking the storm and trying to predict where it may come ashore.

Hurricane Warning A hurricane is expected within 24 hours. You may be told to evacuate. You and your family should begin making preparations to evacuate.


Lightning DangersWeatherCostliest Hurricanes in the United States (U.S. Mainland)

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