Hurricane Irene approaches: What is a hurricane warning, watch?
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As Hurricane Irene swiftly approaches the East Coast, a hurricane warning has been issued from the coast of North Carolina straight up to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. For many, however, these terms are foreign and unfamiliar. Just what is a hurricane warning and how does it differ from a watch? One thing that must be realized, is that warnings and watches indicate that the storm is on the way and now is time to prepare, evacuate and ensure that lives and property are protected to the best of your abilities.
Hurricanes are tropical cyclones or low pressure systems that form in the tropics. The difference between watches and warnings are based on the time frame that the storm system is expected to arrive, as well as the strength of sustained winds the storm is expected to bring. All hurricanes have maximum sustained wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour. A tropical storm has wind speeds between 39 and 73 miles per hour, and a tropical depression consists of maximum sustained winds of 38 miles per hour and less.
Hurricanes are also classified by categories as determined by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. This can be a bit confusing for some, however, as it would naturally seem that a category 5 hurricane would far outweigh a category 2 storm due to potential damage and loss of life. This isn’t always the case. There are many factors to take into consideration when determining how much damage any tropical storm system will wield and some of those factors include how massive the storm is, how much rain it dumps, how long the storm lingers, and where it lands or moves. Many fatalities associated with hurricanes aren’t necessarily related to the category of the storm, but rather the amount of rain that contributes to flooding and a city or town’s local infrastructure. Tropical storms are known as deadly, powerful systems and don’t measure on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The category of a hurricane does not mean that risk to life and property is lessened.
A hurricane warning means that the storm that comes will have at least maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour and that a hurricane is expected to strike the region within 36 hours.
A hurricane watch indicates that the storm will have at least maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour and that the storm should hit within 48 hours.
Hurricane warnings and watches have helped citizens prepare, evacuate and protect their lives and homes to the best of their abilities.
Important Hurricane Websites and Resources
American Red Cross
Google Hurricane Tracker
Hurricane Preparedness Tips
Hurricane Irene Mobile
Red Cross Blog
NOAA National Hurricane Center
NOAA National Weather Service