by Jan Adkins
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.
- A very powerful storm with extremely strong winds over 75 miles per hour and heavy rains.
- What kind of damage can a hurricane cause?
[anno: A hurricane can overturn ships, punch out windows, knock down trees, rip roofs off of houses, and flood areas.]
- What other kinds of storms or weather events can you think of? Describe a few different kinds of storms. What happens when these storms pass through an area? What kind of damage do they cause? How can people protect themselves? Pick two other kinds of storms. Write a few sentences about each of them.
[anno: Answers will vary but could include thunderstorms, tornadoes, tsunamis, blizzards, dust storms. Students could write about the damage caused by each, such as destruction of homes, damage to telephone and electrical wires, and damage to roadways. Students might write that people should go into the basement of their homes, go to higher elevations, or get indoors and wait out the storm.]