Effects of a Hurricane

HURRICANE EFFECTS can create major problems. The maximum effects of a hurricane are usually felt within the right-front quadrant. Here the winds are usually the strongest, storm surge is highest, and the possibility of tornadoes is greatest. It is important to know whether or not your area will be affected by the right-front quadrant. It could mean the difference between maximum hurricane conditions or a glancing blow.

STORM SURGE is the fast uprising of sea level that happens when a hurricane approaches the coast. Two factors that cause storm surge are:

  • Strong winds that push the water toward the coast and

  • Suction created by the storm's low pressure.

Galveston Island on the Texas coast has suffered much damage due to hurricane-caused storm surges. A large sea wall has been built to help reduce the damage caused by the surges. The frequent occurrence of storm surges has also played a part in the destruction of Highway 87 along the Texas coast, which was used by many local beach-goers.

HEAVY RAINFALL is produced by hurricanes. The amount of rainfall usually varies between 6 and 12 inches. The most deadly rainfall occurs inland because a hurricane produces destructive floods. The flooding is the major cause of hurricane-related deaths. The danger from flooding depends on the storm's speed, other weather systems in the same area, the ground saturation, and the terrain.

Rains are heaviest in the six hours before and the six hours after the hurricane reaches landfall. Sometimes a hurricane can last for days and produce floods. These floods can occur more than 100 miles inland. One way to estimate the total inches of rainfall is to divide 100 by the forward speed of the hurricane in miles per hour.

Sometimes the remnants of the hurricane may join with other storm systems causing severe rainfall in states far away from where the hurricane came inland. Hurricane Camille in 1969 came into the Gulf Coast area, but the remnants combined with a cold front in the mountains of Virginia and produced 30 inches of rain. This storm also killed 109 people.

HIGH WINDS is another effect of hurricanes. The wind speed and potential damage of a hurricane is expressed as categories according to he Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

These high winds can easily destroy homes and buildings. Debris, such as signs or broken materials, can become airborne and penetrate just about anything with missile-like force.

TORNADOES are often produced by hurricanes. Even though the tornadoes most likely form in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane, they can appear elsewhere. Some hurricanes develop several tornadoes, while others create none at all. During Hurricane Beulah in 1967, 141 tornadoes developed on the Texas coast. It is true, though, that more than one-half of hurricanes that make landfall will develop at least one tornado. There is no way to predict which hurricanes will produce tornadoes. Generally, tornadoes do not occur with hail or a lot of lightning. If a low pressure system remains for days after landfall, tornadoes can still develop. However, after twelve hours, they tend to appear mainly during the day.

RIP TIDES are another effect of hurricanes. Rip tides are strong sea currents. They push away from the shore as a strong storm is near. Rip tide warnings are often the first indication of a nearby hurricane. They are formed by the strong winds pushing water towards the shore. The wind of a tropical cyclone can push waves up against the shoreline even if it is hundreds of miles away.

Play the Danger Zone, an interactive quiz over the effects of hurricanes.


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