Tropical Storms vs. Hurricanes and How to Best Prepare

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The many weather terms used to categorize storms can make it difficult to keep track of their differences. Understanding how these storms originate and grow into larger, fiercer storms can help guide your decisions in keeping your home and family safe.

Storm Development Basics

While you might guess that high winds set hurricanes apart from tropical storms, only 1 mph of airspeed — from 73 mph to 74 mph — may separate one classification of storm from the other. The difference is in the science of how storms develop.

A tropical cyclone is a general term used to describe an organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that begin over ocean waters near the equator where warm air rises and acts as fuel to power the storm. Whether a storm develops from a tropical cyclone into something more, or doesn’t, we should be careful not to dismiss the truth: Any storm can be dangerous.

Differences in Wind Speed Define Storms

Many of these weather systems never progress beyond a tropical depression or storm. Others, however, move through all of the various stages over time, sometimes growing into the devastating storms known as major hurricanes.

Tropical cyclones move through these stages to eventually become a hurricane:

  • Tropical depression: Maximum sustained winds of 38 mph or less

  • Tropical storm: Maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph

  • Hurricane: Maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher

  • Major hurricane: Maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or higher, which corresponds to a Category 3, 4 or 5

As an example of hurricanes, Hurricane Michael in 2018 was a Category 5. Hurricane Irma in 2017 was a Category 4.

Prepare Well to Safeguard Your Family

There are real and present dangers that can come with storms of any type. Even if a tropical storm or hurricane never forms, slow-moving storms can exacerbate conditions by causing more significant inland flooding and longer periods of sustained winds. That’s why it’s important to prepare your family and home for all storms, from mild to the most severe.

To keep your family safe, you’ll want to build a hurricane kit and prepare your property before the season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

This Year, You Need to Prepare for Hurricane Season Early

You can use the same kit for all storm types, from tropical storms to major hurricanes. This year, however, many of the same items you’ve gathered to shelter at home are also essential for your hurricane kit. Certain items that are already difficult to find during the rush to the store before a hurricane, such as toilet paper and disinfectants, may be even harder to find now. So, please prepare early.

For more updated information preparing for a hurricane or tropical storm, you can count on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nothing Is More Important to Us Than You

As always, the safety of our patients, visitors and team members is our priority. We have a comprehensive disaster plan in place to care for our communities in the event of a hurricane.

If you have an emergency during the storm, it might not be safe to leave your home to head to your nearest emergency room. Instead, call 911 to speak to a responder for emergency assistance.

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