When there’s a tropical storm or hurricane moving across the ocean, part of what’s so intimidating about it is that it’s so unpredictable. We really never know where it might make landfall, or how powerful it might be when it does.
What we do know are some risks that can come with those storms.
Aside from the actual hurricane or tropical storm, other weather hazards that can wreak havoc before and after include ...
1. Storm surge and storm tide
Storm surge is the most deadly hazard, according to the National Hurricane Center, as it poses the greatest threat to life and property along the coast.
Generated by a storm’s winds, storm surge can reach levels higher than 20 feet above normal, and can span hundreds of miles along the coastline.
Storm surge can result in loss of life, can destroy buildings, cause beach and dune erosion, as well as road and bridge damage. It can also travel several miles inland.
The NHC attributes many of the roughly 1,500 deaths during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as a direct or indirect result of storm surge.
Click here to learn more about storm surge.
2. High winds
Winds of 74 mph or more are enough to destroy buildings and mobile homes, according to the NHC, especially when you consider that debris like signs, roofing material, siding and small items left outside can become like missiles during hurricanes.
Even tropical storm-force winds are powerful enough to create a dangerous situation for those caught in them.
Hurricane Charley, which made landfall in 2004 on the southwest coast of Florida caused massive damage well inland in Central Florida, with gusts that reach more than 100 mph.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which classifies hurricanes into five categories, estimates the potential damage based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed.
Though they can be short-lived or weak, tornadoes can also be triggered by tropical systems, and they still pose a significant threat.
“Tornadoes often occur in the thunderstorms embedded in rain bands well away from the center of the hurricane; however, they can also occur near the eyeball,” the NHC website states.
Click here to learn more about tornadoes spawned by hurricanes and tropical storms.
4. Flash flooding
Flooding is a major threat for those who live inland when a hurricane or tropical storm hits.
According to the NHC, these storms can produce torrential rains that bring more than 6 inches of rain, which can ultimately result in deadly and destructive flooding.
Intense rainfall can cause flash flooding — a rapid rise in water levels — while longer-term flooding on rivers and streams can happen for days after a storm.
The NHC says the amount of rainfall that comes with a storm is not directly related to the strength of it, but rather, the speed and size of a storm. Storms that are moving more slowly can produce more rainfall.
5. Rip currents
Rip currents can be scary, because even the strongest of swimmers can be pulled away from shore by one.
The NHC describes rip currents as channeled currents of water flowing away from shore, usually extending past the line of breaking waves.
Rip currents can occur even far away from a storm.
In fact, even though Hurricane Bertha in 2008 was more than 1,000 miles offshore, it produced rip currents that killed three people along the New Jersey coast, as well as required 1,500 lifeguard rescues in Ocean City, Maryland over the course of just one week.
Click here to learn more about rip currents.
The bottom line is, whether you’re near the coast or inland, it’s a good idea to be prepared for any of the hazards above.