Need to Know: 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season

The Atlantic Hurricane Season officially runs from June 1st to November 30th each year. However, as was the case this year, storms can develop outside this time frame and advisories will be issued on them.

In the early months of Hurricane Season (June and July) much of the Atlantic’s Tropical Cyclone activity occurs in the western Atlantic and originates from stationary fronts and monsoon troughs. This type of development is typically slow to occur and storms that form from this don’t usually have enough time to become very strong before either land or unfavorable atmospheric conditions interfere. The atmosphere is still in a transition into the favorable state for Tropical Cyclones that exists during the peak of Hurricane Season.

Most of a year’s hurricane activity will occur in a relatively short period from August 15th to October 31st, with the climatological peak in activity being on September 10th. This marks what is known as the “Cape Verde Season”. This is when African Easterly Tropical Waves develop as they exit the African coast close to the Cape Verde Islands. Storms that form in this manner typically traverse the entire Atlantic before reaching land and so have a long time over the water to become large and strong hurricanes. For example, Hurricane Fabian (2003) was a Cape Verde storm that struck Bermuda with 120mph winds.

A secondary peak in activity occurs in mid-October as the season for African Easterly Tropical Waves comes to an end and it returns to Stationary Fronts and Monsoon troughs as the primary origin for Tropical Cyclones. This peak occurs when these two phases of the season overlap each other.

Throughout the entire season, everyone within 100 miles of the Atlantic Ocean needs to be prepared for possible impacts from a Tropical Cyclone. Some areas in the Atlantic, who haven’t been affected in a while, may have become complacent about these storms or have a new population that is unfamiliar with Tropical Cyclone preparedness. Basic things to remember to stock up on are:
1. Water – fresh, clean, bottled drinking water. About a gallon a day per person for at least three days.
2. Flashlights and batteries – candles may not be safe as gas leaks caused by the storm could be ignited.  If using a generator, make sure to use it properly to avoid asphyxiation.
3. Medication – you may not be able to refill prescription medication etc. if roads are blocked by debris.
4. Money – Failed electricity and blocked roads could keep you from accessing banks and ATMs and money may become an issue if these conditions persist.
5. Non-perishable food – With failed electricity, the refrigerator/freezer will only remain cold for a few hours and food will quickly spoil. Once it warms above 40F for any period of time food safety should be strongly questioned.
6. Other – You may want to have a charged cell phone handy to get in contact with concerned relatives or emergency management officials. Additionally, it could be a good idea to have any important documents (eg. insurance documents) handy and in a safe, dry location.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale 2012:

This is a scale to rate a Tropical Cyclone’s potential for damage. However, any hurricane can produce damaging tornadoes far away from the center of the storm. Recently components for Storm surge were removed as it was determined to be misleading to the extent that people would be in danger if they followed the scale’s definitions. This year, minor changes to the scale were made as a formality of wind-speed unit conversions from knots to mph and rounding to the nearest five. The most up to date scale is as follows:

Category 1-minute Sustained Winds Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds
Tropical Depression less than 38mph (33kt) Few impacts directly due to wind; fresh-water flooding and tornadoes are the biggest threat.
Tropical Storm 39-73mph (34-64kt) Whole trees will be in motion with extensive defoliation. Many branches and some whole trees may be uprooted; some damage to power lines may result in power outages that could last for an extended period of time.
Category 1 (Hurricane) 74-95 mph
(64-82 kt)
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
Category 2 (Hurricane) 96-110 mph (83-95 kt) Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage:
Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
Category 3
(Major Hurricane)
111-129 mph
(96-112 kt)
Devastating damage will occur:
Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
Category 4
(Major Hurricane)
130-156 mph
(113-136 kt)
Catastrophic damage will occur:
Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Category 5
(Major Hurricane)
157 mph or higher
(137 kt or higher)
Catastrophic damage will occur:
A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

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