A hurricane is a severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico or the eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes rotate in a counterclockwise direction around an "eye." They have winds at least 75 mph. When they come onto land, they can bring heavy rain, strong winds, and floods, and can damage buildings, trees, and cars.
They also produce heavy waves called a storm surge. Storm surges are very dangerous and a major reason why people must stay away from the ocean during a hurricane warning.
Hurricanes are classified into five categories, based on wind speed and potential to cause damage:
- Category One - Winds 74 to 95 mph
- Category Two - Winds 96 to 110 mph
- Category Three - Winds 111 to 130 mph
- Category Four - Winds 131 to 155 mph
- Category Five - Winds greater than 155 mph
Watches & Warnings
Learn the terms that are used to identify a hurricane.
Tropical Storm Watch
issued when tropical storm conditions, including winds from 39 to 73 mph, pose a possible threat to a specified area within 48 hours
Tropical Storm Warning
issued when tropical storm conditions are expected to affect a specified area within 36 hours or less
issued for a specified area when hurricane conditions, including sustained winds of 74 mph or great, are possible within 48 hours.
issued for a specified area when hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. In coastal or near-coastal areas, a hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water, or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves, continues, even though the winds may have subsided below hurricane intensity.
This is the most important instruction people affected by hurricanes will receive. If issued, leave immediately.