Hurricane Guide: Glossary

When it comes to hurricane season, and a storm starts brewing in the tropics, there are a lot of terms and acronyms that are thrown around. It can get confusing if you haven’t grown up hearing it all like I have. Even throughout some of my #stormprepsaturday posts, I have used some of these terms without definition as well. Hopefully this quick glossary will help clear up anything you aren’t sure about.

Barometric Pressure  The weight of the air. Barometric pressure is the push of the air, usually measured in millibars. In a hurricane, the lower the barometric pressure, usually that indicates a stronger storm.
Bermuda High  An area of high pressure in the Northern part of the Atlantic Ocean. It will change the direction of a hurricane if it meets it. A hurricane is low pressure, so it will steer away from the high pressure area.
Category 1  A hurricane with winds 75-95mph. Some damage, shingles removed, gutters down, small trees or limbs down. Power outage for a few hours to a few days.
Category 2  A hurricane with winds 96-110mph. Extensive damage, roof and siding damage, large trees down, roads blocked. Power outage for a few days to a few weeks.
Category 3  A hurricane with winds 111-129mph. Devastating damage, major home damage, large trees down. Power outage for a few days to a few weeks, possible water outage/boil-water notices.
Category 4  A hurricane with winds 130-156mph. Catastrophic damage, loss of roof or walls, almost all trees downed and many areas uninhabitable. Power outage for a few weeks to a few months.
Category 5  A hurricane with winds 157mph and greater. Catastrophic damage, most buildings destroyed, all trees down and disaster area uninhabitable. Power outage for months.
Evacuation Route  The best route to evacuate your area in the event of a hurricane. Usually along a highway that leads inland to the north and/or west. Often during major evacuations both sides of the roads are used to leave the area.
Eye of the Hurricane  An area of mostly calm weather at the center of a hurricane. The hurricane spins in a counter-clockwise motion around this center.
Eyewall  The winds that form the wall of the hurricane’s eye. These are usually the strongest winds of the entire storm.
Feeder Bands  The outer bands of the hurricane that reach the furthest away from the storm. These are not as strong as the storms that are closer to the center.
FEMA  Federal Emergency Management Agency. A government entity of the Department of Homeland Security designed to provide disaster response when an area’s local and state relief is overwhelmed.
Forecast Cone  The cone that shows a probable path that a hurricane may take based on computer models and historical information. It is only a probability, not a definite path that the storm will take.
Hunker Down  Take shelter or hide out. Also known as a drinking game, every time a news anchor or weather forecaster says “hunker down” you take a shot.
Hurricane Season  June 1 – November 30. The most common time of the year for hurricanes to form in the North Atlantic Basin. Storms can develop outside of this timeframe.
Hurricane Shelter  A large, well-constructed building designated to house those who evacuate their home. These fill up fast, and are not comfortable, but are safer than staying home.
Invest  Invest is short for investigation. This is an area that the National Hurricane Center is watching for potential development and will start collecting data about it.
Major Hurricane  Any hurricane reaching Category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane because they have the potential for major damage and loss of life.
Mandatory Evacuation  A mandatory evacuation does not mean that you must leave your home. But it does mean that public service officials and emergency response teams will not respond to calls. You have to plan to be on your own during the storm and at least 72 hours after.
Maximum Sustained Winds  The average highest wind speed recorded about 33 feet above the surface over at least a one minute period.
NHC National Hurricane Center. Located in SE Florida, responsible for tracking and predicting tropical weather systems.
NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. American scientific agency focused on ocean and atmosphere conditions.
NWS  National Weather Service. A division of NOAA that is responsible for warnings in the US and it’s territories of any water, hydrologic, and climate forecasts that could that could threaten life and/or property.
Point of Landfall  When any storm moves over land after being on the water. For a hurricane, this is when/where the center of the storm (usually the eye) moves onto land.
Price Gouging  The price of a necessary item is unethically raised because the seller knows it will be in high demand. This often happens before and after a hurricane when store owners raise the prices of water, food, gas, etc. There are laws currently in 34 states against price gouging.
Rainbands  See feeder bands
Saffir-Simpson Scale  The scale developed to gauge how strong a hurricane is, based on wind speed. They are classified by categories 1-5 with 5 being the worst. This only accounts for wind speed, and is meant to be an indicator of potential damage. It does not include storm surge or rainfall amounts.
State of Emergency  In relation to a hurricane, usually activated by a mayor or state governor. This orders government agencies, such as FEMA, to use their resources to help a disaster area and implement any emergency plans.
Storm Surge  Very quick-rising flood waters usually along the coast when waters are pushed inland by the wind and force of a hurricane. Most of the casualties during a hurricane are the result of the storm surge.
Tropical Depression  An area of disturbance that has a defined circulation, with maximum sustained winds less than 39mph.
Tropical Disturbance A weather system with some organization and rotation that stays together for at least 24 hours.
Tropical Storm  An area of organized thunderstorms with rotation and a maximum sustained wind speed between 39-73mph. When a disturbance becomes a tropical storm, it is also given a name.
Tropical Wave  A small storm, usually developing in a straight line North-South, that moves off the coast of Africa and into the tropics. As it moves, it is watched for development into a tropical disturbance.
Voluntary Evacuation  Precautionary measures taken by individuals or government issued well in advance of a perceived danger. During a voluntary evacuation there won’t be any special traffic control or transportation changes made, such as in a mandatory evacuation.
Related:  Power Outage

Hurricane Guide: Glossary

Hurricane Guide: Glossary

Stephanie Lynch

I’m a stay-at-home mom, I am a children/family photographer, I am a Legacy Maker with Legacy Republic, I am a mom, I am a wife. I wear many different hats and do many different things, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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