Tropical Depressions, Tropical Storms, Hurricane Watches… What does it all mean?

It happens every year.  From June through December we are inundated with information about tropical disturbances, depressions, and storms that may or may not turn into hurricanes.  We hear these terms each and every year, but do you know what they actually mean?  At Mappus Insurance Agency, we think it is important that our clients are not only well-informed about the storms that could so drastically effect our beautiful coastline.

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Tropical Disturbance– a moving area of thunderstorms that remains in the tropics for 24 hours or longer. These are caused when a trough of low pressure occurs in the trade-wind easterlies. These disturbances can develop into a tropical depression if the circulation at the surface has a maximum constant wind speed of 38 miles per hour.  A tropical depression can accelerate to become a tropical storm.

Tropical Storm– this is a distinct circulation with a wind speed of 39 to 74 miles per hour.

Tropical Storm Watch– issued for coastal areas when there is a threat of a tropical storm within 24 to 36 hours.

Tropical Storm Warning– issued for coastal areas when the threat is within 24 hours.

Hurricane– a circulation of air with a constant wind speed of 74 miles per hour or greater. Hurricanes are measured on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, which ranks them on a scale of 1 to 5 according to wind speed, barometric pressure, storm surge, and damage potential.

Category 1– 74 to 95 miles per hour. Very dangerous winds will produce some damage.

Category 2– 96 to 110 miles per hour. Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage.

Category 3– considered a major hurricane. 111 to 129 miles per hour. Devastating damage will occur.

Category 4– considered a major hurricane. 130 to 156 miles per hour. Catastrophic damage will occur.

Category 5– considered a major hurricane. 157 miles per hour or higher. Catastrophic damage will occur.

Hurricane Watch– issued for coastal areas when the threat of hurricane conditions is within 24 to 36 hours. Residents are advised to make evacuation plans.

Hurricane Warning– issued when hurricane-force winds will occur within 24 hours or less. Residents are advised to seek shelter immediately.

Major Hurricane– a Category 3 or higher hurricane. Evacuate as quickly as you can.

Eye and Eye Wall– the eye of the hurricane is the relatively calm center. It is surrounded by the eye wall, an area of very intense winds.

Storm Surge– an abnormal rise in the sea level accompanying a hurricane.

Storm Tide– the actual level of sea water resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge.

Information via and NOAA.

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