Hurricanes, tropical storms, typhoons, or severe cyclonic storms are all the same: Low-pressure weather systems with thunderstorm activity that form over tropical and subtropical waters. They gain their energy from warm ocean water.
Rainfall, winds, and storm surge are the most obvious effects of a hurricane. But these storms also wreak havoc on our natural environments, uprooting plants and animals, and spreading invasive species to new areas.
The most destructive hurricanes are Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which ranks hurricanes based on their wind speed. These powerful storms can cause massive flooding and damage, even causing the death of people in the coastal areas they hit.
Climate change is worsening the impacts of hurricanes on both inland and coastal communities, increasing the intensity and frequency of these storms. It is also causing sea levels to rise, which in turn makes coastal areas more vulnerable to the threat of storm surge.
Hurricanes produce heavy rainfall that can lead to inland flooding, tornadoes, and rip currents. The flooding caused by a hurricane can also destroy infrastructure such as power lines and sewage systems, leaving communities vulnerable to future storms.
A hurricane is formed when a system of atmospheric winds and evaporating water pushes moist air up into the clouds. This process is called condensation.
As a result, hurricanes can dump as much as 40 inches of rain on a single location in just a few hours. This rainfall can then cause catastrophic flooding and landslides, putting lives at risk. This was one of the primary reasons why Hurricane Katrina killed 1,833 in 2005 and left a lasting legacy on Louisiana.