Florida Severe Weather Awareness Week - Hurricanes

By: Brittany Bedi | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 25, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Florida is prone to tropical weather. While hurricanes have always been around, the past two hurricane seasons tested the state. Most recently, Hurricane Hermine hit the Big Bend in 2016 and Hurricane Irma moved up the Florida peninsula a year later.

While different types of weather are covered during Severe Weather Awareness Week, hurricanes can bring multiple threats.

Hurricanes are often known for damaging winds. Each storm is categorized by wind speed on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. A Category 1 hurricane has winds of 74 to 95 mph.

Category 2 winds run 96-110 mph. A Category 3 or stronger storm is considered a major hurricane, which could cause widespread devastation to buildings and infrastructure.

Category 3 winds are 111-129 mph. Category 4 winds run from 130-156 mph and anything with maximum sustained winds of 157 mph or stronger is a Category 5.

The winds are just one aspect of the storm. Hurricanes can cause damaging storm surge that leads to coastal flooding. Tornadoes can spin up in rain bands of a hurricane. Heavy rain could also lead to freshwater and river flooding. Just one foot of floodwater can knock over a person or move a small car. High surf and strong rip currents can also accompany hurricanes.

It doesn't take a major hurricane to cause widespread damage. Winds of 40 mph could easily knock down trees and power lines. For reference, a 40 mph wind is tropical storm-force strength. Hurricane Hermine and a weakened Irma knocked out power, knocked over branches, and toppled trees in the Big Bend.

Technology allows meteorologists to forecast tropical storms and hurricanes several days in advance. This will help give people enough forewarning to make any necessary preparations. However, it is still important to know that forecast tracks can change based on several elements that may affect the storm.

The best way to prepare for a hurricane is to have a plan before hurricane season even starts. If ordered to evacuate, have an idea of where to go. A disaster supply kit will make evacuating or hunkering down at home less stressful.

If local officials order an evacuation at your home, obey their orders. Do not wait until the last minute to do so, as roads and gas stations become crowded. If you are not ordered to evacuate and plan to ride out the storm at home, make sure the building is a permanent home (not a mobile home) and that the house can withstand the strength of the storm.

Getting through the storm is just the beginning. If you plan to sit at home after the storm, be sure to have enough supplies to last a least a week without running water or power.

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