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A hurricane primer - Garden Club of Cape Coral

September 23, 2019
By JOYCE COMINGORE , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


Hurricanes to the left of me, hurricanes to the right of me, here I am left in the middle with a scurrying away Humberto, and Imelda is not far behind. Not to relax, there will be more coming along soon. Hurricane season in Florida begins June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30.

Hurricanes used to be named after the saint's day near when they occurred. Now, an international committee oversees the naming of hurricanes on a six-year-long repeating list. This year's list has been set by the World Meteorological Organization, which created the six-year-long repeating list. The 2019 names were last used in 2013, except for Imelda which replaced the now retired Ingrid.

The only time those lists change is if a storm is so deadly or costly that its future use would be seen as insensitive. They have retired Harvey, Maria, and Nate from the 2017 season. The 2018 season's retired names have not yet been released.

As Humberto hurries away from us, the names left on the list are Imelda who is flooding Houston,-Jerry-Karen-Lorenzo-Melissa-Nestor-Olga-Pablo-Rebekah-Sebastien-Tanya-Van-and Wendy. We are mainly concerned about the hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and those scurrying around in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Saffir-Simpson Scale is how they are measured on a 1 to 5 scale. In 1970, a consulting Florida engineer, Herbert Saffir, and Dr. Robert Simpson, then director of the National Hurricane Center, created the wind scale determining hurricanes or cyclones from tropical storms. It has evolved over time. But it only measures the hurricanes' wind speeds, not the flooding or tornadoes that might accompany the storms.

Hurricanes have a life cycle and begin as simple thunderstorms over a tropical ocean. Tropical cyclones and hurricanes are synonymous as winds that have sustained 74 mph in the tropical and sub-tropical areas.

For hurricanes to form, several factors need to be involved. Weather and water temperatures must be above 80 degrees, humidity, low pressure systems, and even wind shears are crucial factors.

If the storm lasts and grows in intensity, it can reach the level of a hurricane. You have three stages of development, tropical depression, tropical storm, then finally, a hurricane.

Thunderstorms over warm bodies of water can begin to collect water which is a tropical depression with wind speed reaching between 23 to 39 mph. The depressions have low pressure areas which may begin to move around a center. A depression can disappear or last for weeks. Depressions aren't given names but are monitored because they can impact weather on land as well as sea.

Once a depression takes form and begins to form around that spiraling center, it's reclassified as a tropical storm. Tropical storms generally have sustainable winds of 39 to 73 mph. This is the point the National Hurricane Center gives it a name.

A hurricane is an intensely incredible tropical storm with sustaining winds exceeding 74 mph. Once it hits this stage, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used to determine the category or intensity of the storm.

The numbered category stages are worth a look. Category 1 hurricanes have very dangerous winds, will produce some damage. Category 2 hurricanes produce extremely dangerous winds, will cause extensive damage. Look out for Category 3 and above hurricanes. Category 3 starts your devastating damage, whereas Category 4 will produce catastrophic damage. Category 5 is your top-notch destroyer. I saw where someone asked about Category 6-there is no such thing as a Category 6, the Saffir-Simpson scale stops at 5. Some have suggested creating a 6, but since 5 is almost near total destruction there may not be much point in assigning any higher numbers.

Lessons learned from Irma 2018-KNOW YOUR EVACUATION ZONES-STORM SEASON FORCAST-PREPERATION IS KEY-KEEP EYE ON NURSING HOMES-HAVE PLANS TO CARE FOR PETS-RECOVERY PLANS. Irma was the first category 5 hurricane to hit the Leeward Islands on record, followed by Maria two weeks later in 2017. Last year, a nursing home had a tragedy when their power went out. A transformer blew, resulting in deaths, caused not from flooding, high winds or a building collapsing but by hospital room temperatures that went from hot to oppressive, then fatal. Irmageddon became a new catch phrase. We know there will be a run on water, plywood, generators, batteries, gas and canned goods. Also have a hand can opener available to help. These items are becoming necessary storage items in our preparedness kits. Remember to never run a generator in an enclosed space, and storing gas leads to dangerous problems. The old well-known Coast Guard motto, Semper Paratus, always prepared, comes to mind. These are the thorns of living in Paradise.

I tried the evacuation route in 2017. Jammed highways north. Sitting in lines, forming a giant parking lot. No damage happened to my house, just lack of power. This will be a theory re-evaluated in a future crisis. A battery-operated radio becomes a good friend. I no longer have a home phone, just my trusty cell phone and a car jack for recharging it in a running car. It's better to get things ready now than to wait until it's too late and we're in a storm's bullseye.

The biggest take-away is be safe. The old adage is hope for the best, prepare for the worst and take what comes. Are we ready, get set, go for hurricane season.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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