A few years ago, Hurricane Elena as seen from the space shuttle. There is nothing like them in the atmosphere. Born in warm tropical waters, these spiraling masses require a complex combination of atmospheric processes to grow, mature, and then die. They are not the largest storm systems in our atmosphere or the most violent, but they combine these qualities as no other phenomenon does. In the Atlantic Basin, they are called hurricanes, a term that echoes colonial Spanish and Caribbean Indian words for evil spirits and big winds.
These awesome storms have been a deadly problem for residents and sailors ever since the early days of colonization. Today, hurricane damage costs billions of dollars. During this century, 23 hurricanes have each caused damage in excess of $1 billion (adjusted for inflation).
Damage from Hurricane Andrew (1992) alone was estimated at more than $25 billion in South Florida and Louisiana and undoubtedly would have been higher had the storm hit Miami directly. Thankfully, the number of people injured or killed during tropical cyclones in the United States has been declining, largely because of improvements in forecasting and emergency preparedness. Nonetheless, our risk from hurricanes is increasing.
With population and development continuing to increase along coastal areas, greater numbers of people and property are vulnerable to hurricane threat. Large numbers of tourists also favor coastal locations, adding greatly to the problems of emergency managers and local decision makers during a hurricane threat. Hurricanes cannot be controlled, but our vulnerability can be reduced through preparedness. For three days over the 1985 Labor Day weekend, Hurricane Elena stalled off the coast of West Central Florida and held it a virtual hostage.
Natural Disasters This being my senior project I wanted to look at a topic that I found interesting. Even though I find most topics in the fields interesting, none catch my attention better than natural disasters. I have always found disasters intriguing and have wanted to know more about them. The disaster that I found most interesting were Hurricanes. The thought of those storms with their power ...
More than 300, 000 residents fled their homes, the largest peace-time evacuation in U. S. history. Although Elena never came closer than 80 miles to the Tampa Bay area, its 40 to 50 mph sustained winds caused tides six feet above normal on the beaches and seven feet above normal in the bay. The storm killed four people, destroyed more than 250 homes and damaged thousands of others before finally moving north and coming ashore in Mississippi. Elena washed away the landmark Indian Rocks Pier, including snack bar, tackle shop and bathhouse, all of which went in a single piece.
“For weeks afterward,” one resident recalls, “They were finding pieces of the pier from the beach to Tarpon Springs.” The hurricane even altered the area’s coastal geography — it filled in the Dunedin Pass with sand, meaning Clearwater Beach boaters no longer could use the channel to get to the Gulf of Mexico. Total damages to man-made property in Florida were estimated at $213-million. hurricane can be up to 600 miles in diameter and can reach eight miles into the air. Warm water is the engine that creates and sustains the storm.
Water vapor, sucked upward around a tropical depression, creates heat energy when it condenses to form rain. The high-altitude heat triggers exaggerated updrafts, which suck up even more water vapor. Once the chain is started, nothing but land and cooler water or high-altitude shearing winds can stop the fierce.