A hurricane is a type of tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes can cause significant damage to coastal areas and even several hundred miles inland, depending on the strength of the storm. Hurricanes can cause winds above 150 miles per hour and are categorized 1-5, depending on the strength of the winds, with 1 being the calmest and 5 being the harshest. But hurricanes can also cause damage from heavy rainfall, flooding and flying debris. Between 1970 and 1999, more people lost their lives from hurricanes than from any other weather hazard. (www.ready.gov/hurricanes)
Because of human interest in living near water due to access for recreation and fishing, nearly 40% of the world’s population lives within 100km of the coast. (www.challenger.org/sciencechallenges/climate-change-challenge/) Therefore, people and property are at risk of tidal and storm surges associated with hurricanes.
Although scientists began to understand ways to predict hurricanes as early as the 1800’s and have been building on that knowledge ever since, hurricanes continue to cause incredible destruction, such as the Galveston Hurricane in 1900, where approximately 6,000 people died, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which caused over $81.2 billion in damage and still affects the city of New Orleans today.
One way to reduce the impact of hurricanes on people and property is to limit or reduce the amount of development at or near coastal areas. However, this is highly unlikely because of people’s love for the water.
A more realistic and potentially more beneficial alternative to reduce hurricane damage would be to restore coastal wetlands, because wetlands act as natural sponges that soak up and store water from storm surges. For example, naturally occurring wetlands along the Mississippi River used to be able to hold up to 60 days worth of floodwater; now they can only hold about 12 days worth of water. Trees, marshes and other wetland vegetation not only soak and hold water from storm surges to prevent flooding, but they also hold soil in place with their roots to prevent erosion, absorb the energy of wind and waves to slow down tidal surges to protect people and property, and break up the flow of river currents.
Additionally, we need to be better prepared when a hurricane strikes, to minimize the impact of hurricanes on people and property. Scientists should continue to work on predictive models to alert the public when and where a hurricane may strike, and communication should be a priority to educate people on the safety precautions to take before a hurricane strikes. Some examples of hurricane preparations include: * Build and emergency kit and make a family plan
* Learn the elevation level of property and whether the land is flood-prone * Identify levees and dams in the area and determine whether they pose a hazard * Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground * Cover all of the home’s windows; permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows; a second option is to cover windows with 5/8” plywood * Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten the roof to the frame structure * Be sure vegetation around the home is well trimmed to be wind resistant * Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts
* Reinforce garage doors
* Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans, etc. * Consider installing a generator and/or building a safe room * If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor
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Hurricanes create a storm surge, which is produced by water being pushed towards the shore by the force of high winds. The height of the storm surge changes based on the strength of the winds, but another...