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U.S. Weather Phenomena

Hurricane Definition, Introduction

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone - an organized rotating weather system that develops in the tropics. Hurricanes rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:

  • Tropical Depression 
    An organized system of persistent clouds and thunderstorms with a closed low-level circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots*) or less.

  • Tropical Storm
    An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a well defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34-63 knots).

  • Hurricane
    An intense tropical weather system with a well defined circulation and sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons, and similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called cyclones.

*NOTES:
A knot is one nautical mile per hour; a nautical mile is about 1.15 statute miles.

Hurricane - where does the name come from?

The term hurricane has its origin in the indigenous religions of old civilizations. The Mayan storm god was named Hunraken. A god considered evil by the Taino people of the Caribbean was called Huracan. Hurricanes may not be considered evil but they are one of nature's most powerful storms. Their potential for loss of life and destruction of property is tremendous. Those in hurricane-prone areas need to be prepared for hurricanes and tropical storms. Even inland areas, well away from the coastline, can experience destructive winds, tornadoes and floods from tropical storms and hurricanes. 

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