Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons! Oh, my!

Storm surge, heavy rainfall, flooding and high winds. These hazards of hurricanes sound scary, and they are. But what causes hurricanes to begin with?

When tropical ocean water warms during the summer, it heats the air above it.  Meanwhile, water evaporates from the ocean and forms clouds. In simple terms, hot air rising, clouds forming and cooler air falling is a lot of movement and energy. The more energy there is in the system, the more powerful and destructive the storm can be.

Last year we had the warmest year on record , and 2015 is heading the same way. Given the warming trend and affects of climate change, experts say we should expect more high energy storms.

Weather forecasters tell storms apart based on where they’re from. If a tropical cyclone forms in the Atlantic Ocean, it’s called a hurricane. If it forms in the West Pacific Ocean, it’s called a typhoon. If it forms in the Indian Ocean or anywhere, really, it’s called a cyclone.

Confused already? That’s OK. You can read more about them.

What’s not OK is being caught in one of these storms without supplies or a plan. Here are some things to remember:

  • Stay tuned to weather updates until all danger is past.
  • Aside from flooding from the rainfall, winds may push water toward the shore in a storm surge after the storm has passed and cause even more flooding.
  • Depending on how strong the winds are, power lines, trees and roofs may be destroyed.
  • Be prepared to evacuate. Don’t try to shelter in place if you are advised to leave.
  • Even if evacuation orders are not issued, utilities may be out. Keep in mind you may lose power and water.
  • If you evacuate, bring along hard-to-replace documents such as passports and copies of birth certificates, insurance policies and your lease or mortgage. If you shelter in place keep those documents in a waterproof container. A double zip-locked bag will work in a pinch!
  • Don’t forget to take all prescriptions and medications for all family members, including pets.
  • Speaking of our animal companions, remember to include plans for their shelter and evacuation.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign offers terrific tips for getting supplies and preparing a plan. Another great resource for hurricane preparedness information is Ready.gov, which also has tips for getting kids involved in hurricane planning.

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