We are in the early weeks of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season. It is our hope that the current prognostication of a below average season will come true. However, it only takes one tropical system to really mess up a Summer.


Over the course of the Hurricane Season as systems develop and forecasts are made you will hear certain terms. Knowing what those terms mean could help save your life and help you protect your property.



Tropical Depression: A tropical depression is an area of disturbed weather in the tropics that is associated with a low pressure system. These systems have a closed area of circulation and thunderstorm convection associated with that center. Tropical Depressions can have sustained wind speeds up to 38 mph.

Tropical Storm: This is a tropical low pressure system with a defined closed circulation. There are thunderstorms and heavy rains associated with this center of circulation. For a system to be declared a Tropical Storm and be given a name by the National Hurricane Center, sustained winds must be at least 39 mph but no greater than 74 mph.

Hurricane: This is a tropical low pressure system with an organized center of circulation and strong thunderstorms and heavy rains associated with that circulation. The minimum sustained winds for a storm to be declared a hurricane is 74 mph.

Saffir-Simpson Scale: This is an index of hurricane intensity used to explain the strength of a tropical system. The scale is based on a one through five rating. With one being a minimal hurricane and five being the strongest storms. This index calculates potential damage based upon wind speed, storm surge and rainfall potential to give residents a reasonable idea of how bad conditions will be should the storm affect their area.

Cone of Uncertainty : Hurricane forecast have become more reliable over the past decades but the ability to pinpoint a hurricanes track can vary over time and distance. The cone of uncertainty is used to illustrate to residents the margin of error in the forecast track. Since hurricanes are usually massive storms anyone living within the cone can expect dangerous weather conditions at the time of landfall.

El Nino: This is a climatological effect that affects the ability of tropical systems to form. El Nino actually occurs in the tropical Pacific ocean. It is a term used to describe warmer than average waters in that region. These warm waters increase wind shear over the tropical Atlantic region. Thus creating a slightly more hostile environment for tropical systems to develop. It is thought that this hurricane season will be below average because of El Nino conditions in the Pacific.

Hurricane Watch: A hurricane watch is issued for a section of the coast that could be in the path of an approaching hurricane.  The watch suggests that hurricane conditions could be felt in the watch area within 48 hours. The watch is issued to give residents time to make preparations to prepare property for the approaching storm and make other preparations to seek and find shelter.

Hurricane Warning: Is issued when Hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours. This means a land falling hurricane is imminent and final preparations should be rushed to completion. A hurricane warning area is generally smaller than a hurricane watch area because the forecast can be more refined over a shorter period of time with less distance to the coast.

Storm Surge: This is by far the most deadly component of a land falling tropical system. Storm Surge is the amount of water that is pushed on shore by the hurricane force winds. The higher the wind speed the greater the storm surge. Storm surge is also greater in the right front quadrant of the storm because the water is not only affected by the wind speed of the cyclone but also by the forward speed of the storm as it approaches the coast.

Bad Side of The Storm: This is generally the right front quadrant of a tropical system. Since the circulation of a tropical cyclone is counter clockwise the greater wind speeds and higher storm surge are generated just to the right of the center of circulation.

These are just some of the more common terms you will hear over the course of a tropical season. Understanding what these terms mean and how they affect you and your family could be the difference between life and death.