Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem
On average, over a two year period, 3 hurricanes strike United States coastline with one of them being considered major. Research on tropical cyclone return periods shows that Louisiana averages a hurricane strike every 7-8 years. The last was Hurricane Zeta in late October 2020. Prior to Zeta was Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta, both making landfall during the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Through the off-season, and especially if a location has not experienced a hurricane in many years, it is easy to forget what a hurricane is capable of doing. Many people may fall victim to hurricane amnesia in the forms of complacency, denial and inexperience. Storms such as Ike, Sandy and even Isaac remind us that significant impacts can occur without a storm being classified as “major.”
Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Their impacts can be felt hundreds of miles inland.
Therefore, it is important to identify the types of wind and water hazards that can affect your home, and then start preparing NOW for how to handle them.
- Storm surge is the water pushed ashore by a tropical cyclone. It is the deadliest hurricane hazard.
- Strong winds are capable of producing significant damage to any and all structures in their path.
- Inland flooding can occur far from the coast and well after landfall. Such events are a more frequent cause of death in tropical cyclones.
- Tornadoes are commonly spawned by tropical cyclones, well away from the center of the storm.
- Rip currents along and near the coast can be deadly, even when to storm is well offshore.
While hurricanes are classified as the most powerful tropical cyclone, tropical storms and even depressions should still be taken seriously. Consider Tropical Storm Allison or the Great Flood of 2016. While neither system had the meteorological credentials of Hurricane Katrina, both were billion dollar disasters. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a tropical cyclone as a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation. Tropical cyclones rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. There are several classifications of tropical cyclones.
- Invest: A designated area of disturbed weather that is being monitored for tropical development.
- Potential Tropical Cyclone: a system that is not yet at depression strength but has a chance of intensifying and bringing tropical storm or hurricane conditions to land areas within 48 hours. These systems are assigned numbers. The numbers are retained if the storm becomes a depression.
- Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less. These systems are assigned numbers.
- Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots). These systems are assigned names. The names are retained if the storm becomes a hurricane.
- Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.
- Major Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
- A Post-Tropical Cyclone is a system that no longer possesses sufficient tropical characteristics to be considered a tropical cyclone. Post-tropical cyclones can still bring heavy rain and high winds.
Assess your vulnerability to these storms, the hazards they present, and then begin to prepare NOW. By the time a storm is named, it may be too late. History has shown that many tropical tragedies are related to a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation.
Throughout hurricane season, check in with the largest team of meteorologists in the Baton Rouge area. WBRZ Weather is with you on channel 2, digital channel 2.2, wbrz.com/weather, the WBRZ WX app., Facebook, Twitter and the WBRZ Cable Weather Channel. For the latest bulletins in the Capital City, please keep up with us on social media.