Deadly Storms

Meteorologists love hurricanes because they are wonders of nature. But if you're on a ship at sea or in a house on the beach, a hurricane is not so pretty. The screaming winds and enormous waves can overturn a ship. At the shore they can punch out windows, knock down trees, or pluck the roofs from houses.

The most dangerous part of a hurricane's destruction is flooding. Hurricane winds can push the ocean water toward shore, building it up into a huge, rushing tide called a storm surge. Water level at the shore can rise 20 feet in just a few hours. The deadliest hurricane in United States history happened in 1900, when Galveston, Texas, was struck. In the big storm surge more than 6,000 people were killed. These days, with more and more people living in coastal cities, experts predict that if a hurricane hit without warning, the death toll could be even higher.

But scientists have learned a lot about hurricanes since 1900. Meteorologists can now track the path a hurricane takes and predict where it is likely to hit days in advance. When Hurricane Isabel swept toward the North Carolina coast in 2003, the National Hurricane Center was able to make forecasts five days ahead, and scientists were off by only one hour in their prediction of where and when Isabel's eye would make landfall. The information collected by the hurricane hunters improves the accuracy of such forecasts by 30 percent—saving thousands of lives.

Vocabulary

hurricane:
A very powerful storm with extremely strong winds over 75 miles per hour and heavy rains.

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Activity

  1. Why is it important to know when a hurricane forms?
  2. Has a hurricane ever passed through your town or city? What was it like? What kind of sounds did you hear? What did you see? What did your town or city look like after the storm was over? If you have not lived through a hurricane, imagine what it might be like. Write a few sentences describing what it would be like to have a hurricane pass through your town or city.