Hurricanes are a staple weather event in Florida. In fact, Florida’s history with hurricanes is substantial. According to Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company[i], over 41% of the hurricanes that affect the United States make landfall in Florida. That’s twice as many landfalls as the next highest state of Texas.
What makes Florida so prone to hurricanes? Here are a few factors to consider:
- 1350 miles of shoreline, not including the shoreline of the barrier islands
- Most of the state at or near sea level
- Warm ocean water that surrounds Florida serves as hurricane wind fuel
For Florida, hurricane season officially runs from the first of June until the last day of November. However, most hurricane activity happens during August, September, and October.
What Are Hurricanes?
A hurricane is severe tropical storm that forms over warm water and reaches a wind speed of 74 miles per hour. Hurricanes were named by the Spanish explorers. More than likely, they used a word used by the Taino Native Americans, who likely took it from the Maya.
- Huracan – Taino for evil spirit
- Huraken – Maya for God of Storms or bad weather
How Hurricanes Are Formed
Hurricanes that affect Florida typically start in the Caribbean or on the west coast of Africa. When they form, these storms do not yet meet the definition of hurricane. However, as they move, they gather energy and water from the ocean, which increases the storm’s power to hurricane level.
The warm, moist air gathered by the storm is sucked into the center and then begins spiraling upward. This causes the storm to rotate in a counterclockwise direction, creating an eye in the middle of the storm. The storm is the most dangerous at the edge of the eye. This is called the eye wall.
The storm will continue strengthening as long as it remains over warm water. However, once the storm hits cool water or land, the strengthening stops.
When the storm lands, it creates damage for all who live within its reach. Those experiencing the effects of a hurricane may deal with:
- Heavy rain
- Strong winds
- Heavy waves known as storm surges
These storm effects can damage trees, cars, and buildings.
Hurricanes are given one of five classifications, or categories, based on wind speeds. The higher the classification number, the greater likelihood that the storm will cause damage to the area.
- Category 1: Winds 74-95 miles per hour
- Category 2: Winds 96-110 miles per hour
- Category3: Winds 111-130 miles per hour
- Category 4: Winds 131-155 miles per hour
- Category 5: Winds greater than 155 miles per hour
Predicting These Storms
Hurricane tracking did not officially begin in the United States until 1890, but it wasn’t until after the turn of the 20th century that a thorough plan for tracking was established. Finally, in 1955, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) was created.
The NHC sends balloons and aircraft into storms to help determine the strength. They also use computer models to try to predict the path of the storm. Finally, they issue watches and warnings to communities that fall within the potential path of the storm.
- Hurricane Watch: A hurricane is possible within 36 hours. If a hurricane watch is issued in your area, you should prepare for a storm and stay tuned for further information
- Hurricane Warning: A hurricane is possible within 24 hours. If the hurricane is strong enough, government entities may require residents to evacuate the area.
Prior to 1953, hurricanes had location names, and once the hurricane was over, the name of the storm referred to its landing site. Then in 1953, the NHC began naming storms using a predetermined list of names from A to Z.
Here are some trivia facts about hurricane names:
- Hurricane names were all female until 1978. Now, they alternate between male and female, with even years starting with a male name and odd years starting with a female name.
- Hurricane names repeat every six years, unless the list contains a retired name, in which case a new name takes its place.
- Since 1953, ninety-three names have been retired due to their destructive nature. Some of these names include Hazel, Katrina, Mitch, and Andrew.
- Because of the lack of names, storm names do not start with Q, U, X, Y, or Z.
- There is a separate list of Atlantic storms and Pacific storms.
- Until recently, storms beyond the letters of the alphabet were named for the Greek alphabet. Now, storms beyond the alphabet will start over, with storm 22 given an “A” name, moving through the alphabet again.
If you live in Florida, the likelihood is that you will experience a hurricane at some point in time. However, you don’t have to experience it alone. If a hurricane damages your home, call Aftermath Adjusters & Consulting, LLC. We can help you negotiate with your insurance carrier and restore your home to pre-storm condition.