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- 88 Percent of U.S. Deaths From Hurricanes, Tropical Storms Are From Water, Not Wind
Up to 37 inches of rain swamped parts of America's fourth largest city. Twenty-seven of those died from rainfall flooding. Hurricane Agnes in was barely so at landfall, Category 1 at its Florida panhandle landfall.
However, it's final move and subsequent stalling over the Northeast triggered massive flooding. Of the U. The bottom line here is to respect the power of water in tropical cyclones. Don't become a statistic. Deadliest on Record Credit: Show me the weather in Toggle Menu Menu Manage notifications. Hurricane Safety and Preparedness. By Jon Erdman October 08 Unlike tornadoes, hurricanes pack a double punch, with powerful winds and devastating storm surge. Second, crosswinds near the top of the hurricane, called "wind shear," can't be too strong, or they disrupt the formation of the storm.
That tends to blow dry air into the core of a hurricane. That, also, is like throwing cold water on the fire. And third, hurricanes need moisture throughout the atmosphere.
If all these conditions come together, wind speeds within the eyewall of the hurricane can rapidly rise. On a scale of 1 to 5 a major hurricane is a Category 3 storm or above, with wind speeds of miles an hour or greater. You could probably go outside and walk around in miles-an-hour winds. I wouldn't recommend it; there's going to be things flying through the air.
If it was a Cat 3 or 4 hurricane you're not even going to be able to walk or stand. Generally, if over half the buildings are knocked down, that's usually a good sign you've got at least a Category 3 storm. The deadliest storm ever to hit the United States was a Category 4 in Galveston, Texas, in , with estimates up to 12, dead. Category 5 storms are the most powerful hurricanes of all, with wind speeds over miles an hour.
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There are very few structures, boats, buildings, cars that can withstand the force of a Category 5 hurricane. It's not a vertilinear change, it's actually exponential, so the wind is able to do a lot more work. If you double the wind speed, you increase the destruction by at least a factor of eight.
So, a Category 5 hurricane is at least eight times more destructive than a Category 1. And recent history reveals the extreme destructiveness of these Category 5 storms. In , Hurricane Maria wrecked power and water systems across most of Puerto Rico. Estimates put the damage at over 90 billion dollars. In , Camille blasted Mississippi, flattening hundreds of miles of coastline.
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And in , one of the most intense hurricanes ever to hit the United States, the Great Labor Day Hurricane, ripped through the Florida Keys, killing over people. But according to climatologist Mike Chenoweth, the Great Hurricane of devastated a wider area and left thousands more people dead than any of these modern Category 5 storms. And he's found detailed, eyewitness accounts that reveal another reason why this unusually large and slow-moving storm was so destructive: Another devastating force in a tropical storm is the water, an intense surge from the sea, known as "storm surge.
In the Philippines, more than 60 percent of the population lives within a mile of the water. One of the most powerful storms ever to strike land, Haiyan's wind speeds reached miles per hour, as it moved slowly across the islands. You have the wind driving this water towards the coast. As the storm is approaching landfall, it's going from deeper water to more shallow water. Many people lost their lives in that storm because of the surge. Along any coastline, tsunami-like waves, pushed onshore by the hurricane winds, can threaten lives and property. And what you see is a wall of water that just wipes out the neighboring houses and trees and everything before it.
And in some cases, this storm surge can be 10 to 20 feet high, and anything within several feet to up to a mile or so of the coastline can essentially be wiped out. Anybody that's told to evacuate because of the danger of a storm surge, they should not think twice about it. Every year, millions of people in the U.
And it's storm surge that likely caused much of the destruction in Barbados in Suddenly, these massive storm surges came which carry this incredible force with them and devastated the city. Along the shore on Barbados, Wayne Neely is hunting for physical evidence of the storm surge in This is Fort Charles, just outside the capital, Bridgetown. It was entirely rebuilt after the hurricane completely destroyed the original. In , before the hurricane, the fort itself was a massive structure. The walls were much higher and were three- to four-feet thick.
The size was immense. For the walls to be destroyed from that hurricane, it had to be a catastrophic storm. The records describe an unusually high storm surge, over 25 feet. Eyewitness accounts tell us the hurricane swept heavy cannons yards inland. Nothing stood in place. It devastated this fort, it destroyed every house in Barbados, and it devastated the Caribbean. We had entire fortresses and batteries of war, you know, just totally swept away.
The scale of destruction reveals the extreme impact of the hurricane.
Hurricanes in History
And now, drawing together all the clues, it's possible to recreate what happened. On the night of October 9th, , the Great Hurricane approaches Barbados from the southeast. The storm is over miles across. On October 10th, winds and rains lashed the island. Finally, as the eyewall approaches land, the huge winds push up a storm surge 25 feet high. It slams into the coast and inundates the land.
Ravaging the island for over eight hours, it leaves more than 4, dead and goes on to claim a total of 22, lives, across the Caribbean. The Great Hurricane of shows how devastating a hurricane can be in an exposed low-lying landscape. Mike Chenoweth believes its destructiveness was unparalleled. We haven't had a storm like that since, so we're talking about something that's happened only once in years. We don't know how far back something similar might have happened, and we certainly don't know what that possibility in the future is. Major hurricanes, of Category 3 and above, are not common events.
On average, one makes landfall in the United States every two years. And Category 4 and 5 hurricanes are even less frequent. Category 5 hurricanes are very rare, there are far and far more Category 1s than Category 5s. But now, with the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, from burning fossil fuels, our climate is changing. So many scientists, like Kerry Emanuel, are predicting that intense hurricanes will become more frequent.
But it's a challenging problem. Today, scientists rely on complex weather data from satellites and aircraft to create computer simulations that can help them make predictions. But this kind of precise data only goes back a few decades. We have reasonably accurate data going back only to about And if you go back in time, we don't have the satellites. And then, if you go back before the s, we don't have aircraft.
There just isn't enough modern data to discern patterns in hurricane behavior.
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Better data about hurricanes in the past would be valuable. If we have understanding of the activity, the intensity, the frequency of storms a thousand, 2, years ago, then that gives us better confidence in our ability to assess what hurricanes are doing now and in the future. But extracting clues about what hurricanes were doing thousands of years ago, well before detailed historic records, requires some very clever detective work, and some of it needs to be done at sea.
Oceanographer Jeff Donnelly is looking for evidence of ancient hurricanes on the seafloor. His search has brought him over 1, miles west of Barbados, to Jamaica. This is Discovery Bay, on the northern coast. Jeff and his team want to expand our understanding of hurricanes by exploring the deep past.
We're looking into the sediments to, sort of, find these long-term records, to extend our knowledge back thousands of years. Jeff focuses on one part of the bay, next to a reef, too shallow for the research vessel Atlantis.
88 Percent of U.S. Deaths From Hurricanes, Tropical Storms Are From Water, Not Wind
The only way to get there is by building a raft and towing it out to position. Jeff is interested in the sediments trapped at the bottom of this hole. The blue hole is really a good recorder of hurricanes, so it's sort of a nice time capsule, the sediment can go in, but it never can come back out. On calm days fine-grained silt and sand drift into the hole and accumulate over time. But the violent force of a major hurricane propels a different kind of debris into the hole.
When a hurricane will hit, you'll get really strong winds, big waves, storm surge, that all sort of comes up over the reef here. And there are really strong currents associated with that, that will tear up pieces of coral that transports sand into the blue hole. The more intense the hurricane, the larger the pieces of coral and sand the waves transport.
And over thousands of years, this sediment builds up as layers inside the blue hole. The deeper the layers are, the further back in time they were laid down. The team lowers a hollow tube, vibrates it into the sediments, and retrieves the sample trapped inside. So, we basically can start at the top—you know this might be what's depositing today—and then you go back further in time, as you go down the core.
It's mostly fine, silty sand, but Jeff spots one sediment layer that's different. When you get down to the bottom, this interval here, and there's really big bits of shell and coral fragments in there. Washing and sieving the sample reveals larger pieces of coral mixed up in the sand. It's quite coarse, compared to the rest of the core, but this was all that material that was ripped up and washed into this basin.
To Jeff, the coarseness of the sediments is clear evidence of powerful waves, most likely driven by a major hurricane, striking here sometime in the past. You'd have to have a quite a high energy event to be moving this kind of sediment from the barrier reef into that blue hole. By retrieving organic materials washed in with the storm, like twigs and leaves that contain carbon, Jeff is able to radiocarbon date these coarser layers. It'll take months to know for sure when this hurricane struck, but he's dated layers from cores taken from sites all across the Caribbean.
So, this is a piece of a sediment core that we took in the Bahamas. This particular section dates to the 18th Century. See these light bands here, here and here are these hurricane event beds. They're much coarser than the sediment around them. You can really feel the grit between your fingers.
And he's finding that the most recent layers exactly match up with the dates of modern hurricanes. When you start coming into it, you know, with a healthy level of skepticism, when all the storms you expect to find end up being there…. That gives him confidence that his technique is valid. And now he's finding evidence of hurricanes long before historic records began. At present, we've been able to go back about 2, years at most sites. Every time we find a layer that dates to before , A.
By plotting the dates of major hurricanes, back 1, years into the past, Jeff sees a pattern emerge. For the first years, during the height of Maya civilization and as the Vikings were colonizing Greenland, it appears powerful hurricanes were more frequent than today. Not necessarily any more intense than the ones we've experienced today, they just occurred much more frequently. Then, over the next years, during the Renaissance in Europe, and as European settlers were arriving in the Americas, the record shows a marked decrease.
The Great Hurricane of falls in the period where there appear to have been far fewer major hurricanes, making it even more unusual. The storm did not claim any lives in Maine. The western periphery of the hurricane brought heavy rain and gusty winds to Delaware and southeastern Maryland. As the hurricane was transitioning into an extratropical cyclone , it tracked into southern Quebec. By the time the system initially crossed into Canada, it continued to produce heavy rain and very strong winds, but interaction with land had taken its toll.
Nevertheless, the hurricane managed to blow down numerous trees throughout the region. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved February 9, Archived from the original on January 2, Retrieved November 30, Winds on the right side of a hurricane relative to the direction of the storm itself are moving in the same general direction as the hurricane. Therefore, the forward motion increases the observed wind speed for points to the right of the eye of the hurricane and decreases the observed wind speed for points to the left of the eye.
This occurs in a complex way that defies crude addition or subtraction of the forward motion from the intrinsic wind speed of the hurricane. The Great new England Hurricane of The Long Island Express Part 2. Retrieved August 20, The Long Island Express Part 3. Retrieved November 28, Home and Garden, Hampton. Retrieved May 19, Abyss from the Indies". Retrieved February 9, — via content. The Hurricane of '38 - PBS". Retrieved October 11, Retrieved April 10, Retrieved September 8, Retrieved September 19, Natural disasters in Vermont — At nature's mercy: Vermonters prove their mettle through floods, flu, and blizzards".
The Burlington Free Press. Retrieved August 19, Archived from the original on September 4, Retrieved May 20, Archived from the original on October 2, Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes. Carol Janet Carla Hattie Beulah Camille Edith Anita David Allen Gilbert Hugo Andrew Mitch Matthew Irma Maria Book Category Tropical cyclones portal.
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