5 Hurricane Myths Dispelled
    By News Staff | August 16th 2011 01:19 AM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    As hurricane season ramps up, is offering critical information to those at risk of tropical storms and hurricanes.   Here is the science behind the storms and 5 common myths debunked.

    1) Myth: The area and size of a hurricane determines the severity of its impact.

    Truth: The Saffir-Simpson scale categorizes hurricanes based on 1-minute sustained wind speeds. A large-sized storm doesn't necessarily have strong winds, and vice versa. Hurricane Andrew, for example – a category 5 storm – was one of the most destructive hurricanes in history, but it was also one of the smallest in size. The heaviest rains are typically produced by slow-moving storms, no matter the size or intensity. View this video from MyWeather for more information about storm categories.

    2) Myth: If you're not on the coast, you don't need to be concerned about hurricanes.

    Truth: Hurricanes and tropical storms can create significant damage inland. In 1995, Hurricane Opal brought high winds and flash flooding from northern Alabama to western Virginia as it moved north. View this video from MyWeather for more information on inland flooding.

    3) Myth: Stronger storms produce a higher storm surge, which is the deadliest part of a hurricane.

    Truth: A storm surge is a dome of water pushed ashore as the hurricane nears the coast. A storm's intensity isn't the only factor in play when it comes to storm surge. If the shape of the coastline and the storm's angle of approach are just right, a weaker storm might still produce a large surge. Other variables affecting storm surge include wind radius, forward speed and air pressure.

    The dome of the storm surge moves across the shoreline as the hurricane makes landfall. During high tide, the dome can be as much as 100 miles wide and 20 feet deep. While a storm surge can be deadly, more people die from inland flooding and flash floods of rivers and streams because they underestimate the power of moving water. View this video from MyWeather to see how a storm surge works.

    4) Myth: Hurricanes and typhoons are completely different types of storms.

    Truth: Aside from the name, the composition of hurricanes and typhoons is exactly the same. Tropical systems with wind speeds in excess of 74 mph are called "hurricanes" in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as in the Caribbean. To the west of the International Date Line, these storms are known as "typhoons." It's worth noting that the Australians have their own name for hurricanes/typhoons – they call them "willy-willys."

    5) Myth: Under an evacuation order, there's no real need to evacuate until the weather gets bad.

    Truth: Storm path forecasts can change rapidly, so waiting until the last minute to evacuate can leave you without an escape route. Evacuation orders are issued early enough to allow time for people to get to shelter. Even if the weather seems calm, gather what you need, secure your home and leave as soon as you can. Be sure to bring your identification, prescriptions and cash, as you may not be able to use credit cards immediately after the storm. has a new hurricane tracking tool for residents in high risk coastal areas and their loved ones.


    Myth #6
    Global warming increases the number and severity of hurricanes.

    It may be a myth on the fringes. Al Gore may have claimed it once (he does not now) but he is no scientist and the foremost hurricane expert in the world said he was wrong even in 2006.  These other things are real myths.  My grandparents in the middle of Pennsylvania got flooded out by Hurricane Agnes in 1972 despite the fact they were nowhere near the coast - but people think they are coastal issues.
    What is usually voiced is that global warming increases the severity of hurricanes, not their frequency. In principle it seems to makes sense if you think about the cause of hurricanes, but many factors come into play so that only the data will eventually reveal whether this part is a myth or not.
    Right, full-on deniers live in the past.  In his movie, Gore was clearly making a link between Hurricane Katrina and global warming and people dwell on it.  It's hard to dispute that climate changes would lead to atmospheric changes.   Certainly it could get better in some areas.   In the east they had terrible heat and droughts for example but, in California, which is a desert terraformed into habitable land, we've had the nicest summer I have ever experienced.
    Just a minor correction on Myth 4

    As an Australian I'd like to add that hurricanes/typhoons are called cyclones in Australia, not willy-willys. E,g. Cyclone Yasi, which devastated much of Northern Queensland.

    Willy-willys are the Australian term for your typical dust devils and small inland whirlwinds.

    Ah.  I actually thought cyclones were lower speed, like winds of 50 MPH and then once it got high speed they were either hurricanes or typhoons, depending on region, and a willy-willy was a tornado, not a hurricane.

    Someone should write that stuff out.
    The minimum wind speeds used to classify a cyclone are lower than the minimums for hurricane designation, which may be where you got the impression from. A cyclone is any storm above 8 on the Beaufort scale in most regions which use that term, while a storm doesn't become a hurricane in NAM until it reaches 11. The wikipedia entry on Hurricane has a good table of the different terms used, and where they're used. The region the depression is first detected in determines which country classifies and names it, and that classification is used regardless of which region it ends up in. Thus, some places get both typhoons and cyclones (depending on where they were first detected) but they are the same type of storm.

    A willy-willy is a dust-devil - they're extremely minor, and the sort of things teenagers toss handfuls of leaves into. We still call tornadoes tornadoes, although they're so rare that most Australians don't even know they occur here. It's almost unheard-of for a tornado to exceed F2 in Australia.