Potential Hazards

There are four major threats that a hurricane can produce that people should be aware of. Theses hazards of a hurricane will need to be understood in order to better inform people and protect them from a future storm’s effects. The major hazards are storm surge, heavy rain, tornados, and high winds.



Hurricane winds are a hazard that people need to be aware of in the event of an attacking storm because of the extreme damage that can result from it. These winds are rotating around the eye wall with a speed of at least 74 miles per hour for a Category 1 storm. ACategory 4 hurricane would have winds between 131 and 155 mph and, on the average, would usually be expected to cause 100 times the damage of the Category 1 storm (floridadisaster.org, accessed 5-7-05). The force of these winds can rip roofs off houses, launch deadly projectiles, and flatten down trees.


Storm Surge

The high wind speeds that occur in a hurricane often cause damage at landfall, but the most destructive component is the tremendous storm surge that hits. This is a wall of water that is at elevated heights and is generated by the low barometric pressure in the eye, as well as from the high speed circulating winds. In a strong hurricane, these water heights may reach 6 meters or more, of which 1 meter of this is caused from the low pressure directly. The rest of the water elevation is caused from the combination of several factors such as decreased water depth at shore, and the run up of water at the coast from the strong winds (Pielke, 1997). The size of the storm surge can often be amplified by the presence of a high tide.


Hurricanes also have a large amount of rainfall associated with them. These rains can cause flash floods and instigate the erosion of land surfaces. The rains can be especially problematic when they fall on urban areas. These areas are mostly developed and have concrete and pavement covering much of the land surface. The torrential rains that fall on these areas are often not able to drain quickly enough, and a flash flood results.


Tornadoes are also a threat associated with hurricanes. In combination with the hurricane itself they can cause much damage to areas as well. They are formed when the circulating winds of the cyclone move over land and are disrupted by physical land features. The greatest concentration of these tornadoes occurs in the right front quadrant of a hurricane.

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