As you know, summertime and early autumn is hurricane season! In October of 2012, the East Coast was hit by Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of the New York and New Jersey coastline. But before that, on June 29, 2012, a huge wind storm hit Charlottesville uprooting trees and creating havoc and damage, leaving Albemarle County and surrounding areas without power for more than 10 days (in some areas).
Hurricanes are areas of low air pressure that form over oceans in tropical climate regions. Hurricanes are large, whirling storms. They may have a diameter of 400 to 500 miles (640-800) kilometers. Winds swirl around the “eye” (center) of the storm at speeds of 75 miles per hour (121 kph) or more. The eye of a hurricane can be up to 20 miles (32km) across. Here the weather is surprisingly calm with low winds and clear skies.
Hurricanes hit land with tremendous force, bringing huge waves and heavy rain. Thunderstorms often form within hurricanes and produce tornadoes. Many hurricanes in North America hit areas near the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. In the western Pacific Ocean, hurricanes are known as typhoons.
For a hurricane to survive the water temperature must be at least 75°-80°F and the surface winds must converge. Because hurricanes and typhoons need warm, moist air, they usually begin in late summer or early fall. Cold water off North America’s west coast prevents hurricanes from surviving there. The warm water of the West Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico creates more favorable conditions for hurricanes. Meteorologists say the water in the western Atlantic is especially warm this year – giving rise to predictions of “worse-case scenarios” regarding Hurricane Irene.
Hurricane Andrew (in 1992) blew across southern Florida at speeds of 140-160 mph (225-258 kph). In terms of property loss, Andrew was one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit North America. The property devastation was massive. Entire communities were wiped out and had to be rebuilt.
About 90% of the deaths that occur during hurricanes result from drowning in floods. The world’s worst hurricane (for loss of life) took place in 1970 in Bangladesh. It unleashed floods killing more than one million people. The death and destruction in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina was caused by flooding. Katrina actually made landfall on the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, not New Orleans.
Rebuilding the coastal regions after a hurricane is a massive undertaking. If you were a community leader, how would you organize the rebuilding effort? Divide your classmates into small groups and have each group design a plan for rebuilding one section of your city, county, or one of the coastal regions that may be affected by Hurricane Irene.
Look through today’s news sources – online or in print (especially the classified ads) for businesses, services, and materials needed to rebuild the community you have chosen. Use these businesses and services in your city rebuilding plans. Using the model below, organize your information on poster board.
- Businesses to Call Upon
- Services Needed
- Materials Necessary
- Community Rebuilding Plan
How does massive reconstruction after a natural disaster stimulate the economy? Explain. Generally speaking, what was the economic impact of Hurricane Andrew on South Florida; Hurricane Katrina on the coastal communities of Mississippi, Alabama, and the city of New Orleans; Hurricane Sandy on the coastline of New Jersey and New York – then, now, and in the future?
Extension Activity: Hurricanes were first given names in the 19th century by Clement Wragge, an Australian weather man. Nicknamed “Wet Wragge,” he named very violent storms after people he disliked. Nowadays, an alphabetical list of names is drawn up every few years for future hurricane seasons, while the names of major hurricanes like Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy are retired. If you were to create next year’s list of hurricane names using the names of sports figures, which ones would you use and why? For ideas, refer to the Sports Section of your favorite daily news source. (For example, the name of a certain boxer because he “packs a mean punch.”)