• Hurricanes are giant, spiraling tropical storms that can pack wind speeds of over 160 miles an hour and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons of rain a day.
  • The Atlantic Ocean’s hurricane season peaks from mid-August to late October and averages five to six hurricanes per year.
  • Hurricanes begin as tropical disturbances in warm ocean waters with surface temperatures of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. These low pressure systems are fed by energy from the warm ocean water. If a storm gains wind speeds of 38 miles an hour, it becomes known as a tropical depression. A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm, and is given a name, when it gains a wind speed topping 39 miles an hour. When a storm’s sustained wind speeds reach 74 miles an hour it becomes a hurricane and earns a category rating of 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
  • Hurricanes spin around a low-pressure center known as the “eye.” Sinking air makes this 20- to 30-mile-wide area eerily calm. But the eye is surrounded by a circular “eye wall” that contains the storm’s strongest winds and rain.
  • These storms bring destruction ashore in many different ways. When a hurricane makes landfall it often produces a devastating storm surge that can reach 20 feet high and extend nearly 100 miles.
  • A hurricane’s high winds are also destructive and may spawn tornadoes. Torrential rains cause further damage by spawning floods and landslides, which may occur many miles inland.

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