What are Hurricanes?

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                Farzana Jalil

What are Hurricanes?

Hurricanes are violent tropical storms, an atmospheric movement in which the wind blows spirally round towards a centre of low barometric pressure. They are characterised by very strong winds and torrential rains. Hurricanes kill more than 20,000 people a year. Worldwide, that is more than any other form of natural disaster. A large hurricane can release more energy in one day than all the energy used in a year by the USA.

How are they formed?  

Hurricanes develop in tropical areas, over the sea. The sun’s rays heat the air and water, which are more concentrated at or near the equator. The hot air rises up, carrying with it large amounts of water in the form of fine droplets (water vapour). The warm air spirals upwards, leaving an area of calm in the centre, called the ‘eye of the storm.’

This ‘eye’ can be dangerous because as it passes over, people are fooled into thinking that the storm is over, when in fact the worst is still yet to come. This ‘eye’ especially passes overhead after a hurricane roars ashore. The heavy rains and wind of the hurricane are suddenly followed by clear skies and almost an eerie calm. Within an hour or two, however, the ‘eye’ passes and the opposite side of the storm hits, bringing with it the destructive winds and flooding rains again.

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The size, or intensity of a storm depends on its wind speed. Hurricanes are graded according to their wind speed and the level of damage they cause.  

Before a Hurricane

Well-known signs may forecast hurricanes. First come dull red sunsets, caused by a thin haze of clouds. The air becomes hot and sticky. The barometer is high, and the wind dies. At sea there is a growing swell. As the storm draws near, the barometer drops suddenly, signaling a rapid change from high pressure to low pressure. A rain cloud rushes forward from the horizon. Then ...

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