Hurricanes for Kids: A Simple Guide to Understanding Storms

A hurricane is a powerful tropical cyclone over warm waters, named differently based on location, with varying intensity by the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Understanding Hurricanes

What Is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a powerful, rotating storm that forms over warm ocean waters.

These storms are called tropical cyclones and have different names depending on where they occur.

In the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and eastern Pacific Ocean, they’re called hurricanes.

In the western Pacific Ocean, they’re known as typhoons, and in the southern Pacific and Indian Oceans, they’re called cyclones.

How Hurricanes Form

Hurricanes start as a tropical storm over warm ocean waters.

As the warm, moist air rises, it forms clouds.

The surrounding air then swirls in to take the rising air’s place.

This creates a spinning motion, which is fueled by the ocean’s heat and the water evaporating from its surface.

The storm’s spin depends on its location; for instance, if it forms north of the equator, it will spin counterclockwise.

Meteorologists and weather forecasters closely monitor these storms and warn people if they pose a threat to land.

Hurricane Categories Explained

To help people understand the potential damage a hurricane can cause, the National Hurricane Center uses the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

This scale divides hurricanes into five categories based on their wind speeds:

  1. Category 1: Winds of 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h), causing minimal damage.
  2. Category 2: Winds of 96-110 mph (154-177 km/h), causing moderate damage.
  3. Category 3: Winds of 111-129 mph (178-208 km/h), causing extensive damage.
  4. Category 4: Winds of 130-156 mph (209-251 km/h), causing extreme damage.
  5. Category 5: Winds greater than 157 mph (252 km/h), causing catastrophic damage.

It’s essential to take precautions and follow the advice of local authorities when a hurricane approaches a populated area.

The higher the category, the more dangerous and destructive the hurricane can be.

Storms below category 1, such as tropical depressions and tropical storms, can still cause damage, but they are less severe than hurricanes.

When and Where Hurricanes Happen

A powerful hurricane forms over warm ocean waters, swirling with strong winds and heavy rain, threatening coastal areas

Hurricane Season and Regions

Hurricanes typically occur during a specific time of the year called the hurricane season.

In the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, hurricane season typically lasts from June 1st to November 30th.

Hurricanes form over warm tropical waters near the Equator, and they are called different names depending on the region.

For instance, they are known as typhoons in the western Pacific Ocean, and as cyclones in the southern Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The Impact of Hurricanes on Land

When hurricanes make landfall, they can cause extensive damage due to their strong spiraling winds, which can reach speeds of up to 320 km/h, and due to the storm surge, which is a rise in sea level that can flood the coast.

Additionally, hurricanes can also lead to heavy rainfall, tornadoes, and landslides in affected areas.

The World Meteorological Organization is responsible for naming hurricanes to help people easily track and identify these storms.

Staying Safe During a Hurricane

It’s essential to stay informed during a hurricane and follow any issued evacuation orders.

Some tips for hurricane safety include stocking up on essential supplies, such as food, water, and medications, securing the exterior of your home with shutters, and having a hurricane disaster plan in place to ensure everyone in the household knows what to do in case of an emergency.

It’s also crucial to listen to local authorities and news updates for further instructions and to be prepared to evacuate if necessary.