Hurricanes: Hurricane Hazel of 1954

November 16, 2012 by Madison Brinkley

Introduction into Hurricanes

Hurricanes are one of the most powerful and damaging storms to rage the world. They have powerful winds that bring with them mass flooding that can level cities. There is no stopping a hurricane, especially one like hurricane Hazel. All one can do is be prepared.

Hurricane Formation and Gaining Strength

Hurricanes that eventually reach the United States of America start to form off the coast of Africa. A hurricane can only form over ocean water of 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The air in the area must cool off quickly in the atmosphere, and the wind in the same area must all blow in the same direction, at the same speed. The winds force the air up and outwards, allowing more air to rise. The Coriolis Force creates the spin in a hurricane. Below is a satellite image of an hurricane. Hurricanes can cover large amounts of earth at a time as seen here. Satellites help to locate hurricanes and contribute to informing people of a given hurricane's location. Hurricanes gain energy from warm ocean water evaporating. The evaporation increases their power, but when a hurricane makes landfall there isn't any water that they can continue to gain strength from, so they weaken. Hurricanes will only form at certain times of the year. In the Atlantic, hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30. In the eastern Pacific, the hurricane season starts May 15 and ends November 30. Hurricanes will form mostly during the fall months.
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Categorizing and Naming Hurricanes

Typhoons, hurricanes, and cyclones are all the same type of tropical storm, they just form in different parts of the world. In the Atlantic ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Eastern Pacific these tropical storms are called hurricanes. Typhoons are known to the Western Pacific, and cyclones are known to the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, and Australia. Each hurricane is given a name and category. At first, hurricanes were named by where they made landfall. In 1953, hurricanes started to be named after women, the names given in alphabetical order as the year progressed. Then in 1979 an alternating list using both men and women names was used. This is the type of list we use today. A different list is used each year, rotating through 6 lists. The names are in alphabetical order, not using the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z, and the names of the worst hurricanes are retired and replaced on the list. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used to categorize hurricanes. Hurricanes are put in categories according to their wind speed mainly, but also by their storm surge and pressure. A category 1's wind speeds are 74-95 mph, a category 2's 96-110 mph, and a category 3's are 111-130 mph. Category 4 hurricanes have wind speeds of 131- 155 mph, and a category 5's wind speeds are 156 mph or more. These are some very powerful storm systems.

Hurricane Hazel (1954)

Hurricane Hazel was first spotted October 5, 1954. She made landfall in the Windward Islands the same day. Hazel moved back out to sea and made landfall October 12 in western Haiti, then in the Bahamas October 13, 1954. She finally made landfall at the North and South Carolina boarder in the United States October 15, bringing a record storm surge of 18 feet (recorded in Calabash, NC) and rains of 11 inches as far north as Toronto, Canada. Hazel was a category 4 hurricane when she made landfall in the United States, and she caused an estimation of 595 to 1195 deaths. 95 of these deaths were U.S. citizens. She cost about $381 million total in damage; $281 million for the U.S. To the left and above at the left are 2 images of the damage caused. Hazel's damage spread far due to the fact that she managed to travel very far north. Her damage wasn't only in the U.S., but also in Haiti, the Windward Islands, the Bahamas, and in Canada. Hazel's highest wind speeds were felt between Myrtle Beach and Cape Fear, and were between 130 and 150 mph. 100 mph winds were felt in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, and New York. Hazel managed to travel as a extra-tropical storm from where she made landfall in the United States and make it to southeastern Canada in about 12 hours. Below is a tracking map of Hazel. In 1954 there wasn't the technology for creating tracking maps, so this is our best Idea of Hazel's route. You can see how far she traveled on this map.
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Conclusion to Hurricanes

Hurricanes are very dangerous storms. You should always be prepared for flooding and extremely strong winds if one is coming your way. Always seek refuge and heed evacuation procedures. Make sure never to endanger yourself or others in any way during these extreme storms.