||What Are Hurricanes?
Hurricanes are large tropical storms with heavy winds. By definition, they contain winds in excess of 74 miles per hour (119 km per hour) and large areas of rainfall. In addition, they have the potential to spawn dangerous tornadoes. The strong winds and excessive rainfall also produce abnormal rises in sea levels and flooding.
Christopher Columbus was the first European in modern times to write about the hurricane. The Indians of Guatemala called the god of stormy weather "Hunrakan." Similar names were probably present throughout the Caribbean. Captain Fernando de Oviedo gave storms their modern name when he wrote "So when the devil wishes to terrify them, he promises them the 'Huracan,' which means 'tempest.'" The same storms in other parts of the world are known as typhoons, baqulros, Bengal cyclones and willy-willies.
The ocean-water temperature has to be above 79 degrees F in order for a hurricane to be generated, so they normally form in late summer and early fall when the conditions are right. Meteorologists use the term tropical storm when a storm's winds are under 74 miles per hour, and hurricane when the wind speed rises. A hurricane has a peaceful center called the eye, that is often distinctive in satellite images. The eye stretches from 10 to 30 miles wide and often contains calm winds, warm temperatures and clear skies. Around this tropical bliss is a frenzy of winds gusting at speeds up to 186 miles per hour. If one percent of the energy in one hurricane could be captured, all the power, fuel, and heating requirements of the United States could be met for an entire year. It takes 500 trillion horsepower to whirl the great core of winds at such tremendous speeds. It is the equivalent of exploding an atomic bomb every 10 seconds. (Lockhart, 1988).
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