Hurricanes – Categories of Natural Devastation

shutterstock_494660923In September 2016, Hurricane Matthew left a path of destruction through many countries, including Cuba, Haiti and the United States. What began as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa, quickly escalated into the first Category Five hurricane in nine years.  It is believed that Matthew caused the deaths of over 1000 people, the majority of these from Haiti, as well as an unbelievably high amount of structural damage. This is only one of many natural disasters that have caused a serious blow to Haiti’s economy in recent years.

After leaving the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew progressed along the coast of America where four states had to declare states of emergencies. Even though the hurricane was now a Category Two, with winds up to 105mph, it battered the Florida coast where thousands of people had to be moved into shelters for its duration. In addition to people being advised to leave their houses, hospitals and nursing homes which were located near the coast also had to be temporarily evacuated.  There were 4 casualties caused by Matthew in Florida, two from separate falling trees and a couple who got carbon monoxide poisoning from running their generator. Many places in the state were left without power as the hurricane moved on.

Hurricanes are intense storms which form over the eastern Pacific or Atlantic Oceans, and are one of the most destructive natural occurrences. Depending on the location of the storm they can also be called typhoons or cyclones. There are only two requirements for their formation: warm ocean water, which becomes the fuel for the storm, and an adequate amount of wind to propel it.

shutterstock_244388758Whenever the warm air rises, an intense low pressure zone is formed above the ocean’s surface. Air from the surrounding area, with a higher air pressure, enters this low pressure zone and becomes warm, rising as well. The cycle continues and the water which has risen begins to form clouds. As the storm moves on, the clouds and winds spin and grow. These faster wind speeds create a rotation effect and an eye forms in the middle of the storm, which is very calm and clear.

The category of each storm is determined by the speed of the surrounding winds, and many of those that form remain ‘tropical storms’. Once their wind speeds reach 74mph, they become a Category One hurricane. There are various wind speeds which determine the category, with the highest being Category Five having wind speeds of 157 mph or above. Hurricanes will weaken, and eventually die out, when they progress far enough in land that they are no longer being fed by the warm ocean water. In addition to the winds, hurricanes cause lots of rain and flooding due to the clouds which form a major part of the storm.

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