CHARLOTTE, N.C. You could say that if the current hurricane makes landfall in the wee hours of Thursday morning, it should be called “The Florence Night-gale.” As the East Coast braces for its first major hurricane threat of 2018, there seems to be considerable respect for the damage Hurricane Florence could cause than there has been in the recent past. With that thought in mind, Myth Trivia explores some of the interesting data surrounding hurricanes, the most deadly natural phenomenon on the planet.
Hurricanes and an evil god
Regarding hurricanes, these massive tropical storms have been with us for centuries at the very least. In fact, Christopher Columbus wrote the first known report of a hurricane while exploring the New World in 1495.
It’s no wonder, then, that the word “hurricane” derives from Huracon, the name given to a god of evil by inhabitants of some of the islands dotting the Caribbean.
Why not the West Coast?
Oddly enough, for all the devastation hurricanes bring to the East Coast, there is no record of such a storm ever striking the United States Pacific Coast. Considering the yearly plague of mud slides, forest fires and earthquakes, the absence of another form of natural disaster could be viewed as a blessing by Westerners.
For the record, however, we should note that hurricanes have hit the Western coastal areas of of Mexico.
Hurricanes from the past, and storm naming traditions
During their lives, most Americans have memories of their encounter with a particular hurricane at one time or another. In the Carolinas, those memories most likely concern Hurricane Hugo. In the American northeast, the 1955 monster known as Diane is probably the most infamous. Certainly Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, is the most memorable recent hurricane to strike the Gulf Coast.
Hurricanes get their names from a list selected by the World Meteorological Organization. Believe it or not, Atlantic hurricanes come from only six separate lists, so the names are repeated every seventh year.
Death and destruction
Storms that are particularly memorable either winds, costs, damage, deaths or any combination of those factors have their names retired. It’s a bit like enshrining them in a Hurricane Hall of Fame. Some of the retired names include, Andrew, Camille, Bob, Fran, Katrina and Hugo.
It is said that the deadliest hurricane on record in the U.S. hit Galveston, Texas in 1900. That huge, unnamed storm killed somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 people. By contrast, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 took 1,836 victims, ranking it third among the most deadly tropical storms in American history.
Devastating as they were, the 1970 Bhola Cyclone in Bangladesh, by comparison, killed between 150,000-300,000 people to make it the deadliest hurricane disaster on record.
In reality, the most deadly hurricanes on earth have occurred in southeast Asia and India due to high population density and flooding in low lying areas.
Katrina does take top honors as the most expensive tropical storm in U.S. history, with its whopping $105,840,000,000 tab. Andrew ranks second at less than half the cost of Katrina, coming in at $45.5 billion in 1992.
How powerful are hurricanes?
With 210-mile-per-hour winds at landfall in 1969, Hurricane Camille is the most intense storm ever to strike land.
Hurricanes can reach as high as 40,000 to 50,000 feet in the atmosphere and the largest storms can approach the size of the state of Montana with a width of 600 miles.
Whatever they are called, be they hurricanes, cyclones or typhoons, these large tropical storms are all essentially the same. If names make these behemoth storms seem less terrifying or severe, hurricanes are known as “willy-willies” in Australia. The main difference among them: In the Northern Hemisphere, the winds of these storms blow counter-clockwise. But in the Southern half of the planet, they blow clockwise.
People often attempt to compare hurricanes with tornadoes. But there are really few similarities between them other than the high winds and rain. One analogy puts it all in perspective: If a tornado were as wide as a hamburger, a hurricane would be the length of an entire football stadium.
Rainfall, waves and other not-so-fun facts
- For the record, a hurricane is said to make landfall when the eye of the storm, or center, crosses the coastline, not when the edge of the storm arrives as many people believe.
- With regard to rainfall, hurricanes are Planet Earth’s champs. A single hurricane can drop as much as 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day. These storms produce enough energy in a 24-hour period to operate the lights of Las Vegas for several years.
- High waves frequently liter beaches with tons of fish, many of which have had their eyes popped out due to the severe changes in pressure.
- Of the 158 hurricanes during the 20th century, Florida has recorded the most strikes by hurricanes with 57, followed by Texas with 26 and Louisiana and North Carolina at 25 each.
- September has been the busiest month with 36 Category 3 or higher hurricanes. August is the runner-up at 15.
Eco-news for “Shark Week” fans
Folks who watch “Shark Week” on cable TV discover reasons why we should all embrace these massive, man-eating carnivores. “Shark Week” fans will be happy to learn that hurricanes are “an important part of Earth’s complicated weather system. Like giant fans, they take hot air from the tropics and move it toward the poles. They help balance temperatures and moisture around the Earth. Without hurricanes and other storms, vast areas of the planet would be too hot for animal and human life.”
(By the way, the previous paragraph was not written by Al Gore.)
Jupiter vs. Florence and beyond
Finally, just to wrap this topic up and bring everything into perspective, scientists tell us there has been a hurricane raging on Jupiter for more than 300 years that is larger than our entire planet.
So come on Florence, we’re ready for you! Meanwhile, best of luck to our fellow North and South Carolinian neighbors and friends.
— Headline image: Predicted rainfall bands, Hurricane Florence, as of noon, Sept. 13, 2018.
Public domain image. Source: NOAA.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
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