Hurricane Myths Can Mislead You

two tropical systems
Bonnie and Charley satellite view on August 11, 2004

A myth can be defined as a story passed down from generation to generation that is not true or is not always true. The hurricane myths below may be true in limited cases but as a rule they are not. Myths can get you hurt, facts can save your property and lives.

Hurricanes only strike at night. Perhaps people remember best the storms that had them trapped and helpless with no electricity in the dark. There is no preferred time for hurricanes to make landfall.

Crack a window in your house so the house won’t explode. No. Don’t do that. Opening a window allows objects to blow into your house. If windows facing the strongest wind are open you also allow more air to enter your house faster and potentially inflate the house like a balloon. Then you are really in trouble. Houses are not airtight. The damage that buildings suffer from hurricanes and even tornadoes is not from the low pressure, it’s from the high winds and debris flying in the air, before the lowest pressure even gets there.

The worst wind of a hurricane are in the northeast quadrant. This is true only if the storm is moving north. It is more correct to say the worst wind is in the forward right quadrant. In other words, it depends upon which way the storm is moving. For a hurricane traveling westward the strongest wind is the northwest quadrant. If it is going east then the strongest wind is in the southeast quadrant. As storms curve the location of the strongest winds shifts.

There’s not enough time for a tropical storm that starts in the Gulf to grow into a hurricane. False. Hurricane Danny in 1997 formed south of Louisiana.

high waves on beach pier
High waves from tropical weather offshore.

The size of a hurricane tells you how strong it is. Myth. Andrew was smaller than Georges, when making landfall in the Gulf, but Andrew had much stronger winds. The extent of the clouds around a hurricane does not relate directly to the strength.

Hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf only happen between June 1, and November 30th. No, that’s when most of them happen. Hurricane Lili in 1984 continued in middle December. Hurricane Alice in 1954 lasted into January, and tropical storms have been recorded in every month of the year.

It’s a good idea to tape your windows for protection against hurricanes. The only thing taping windows does it make it a little easier to pick up broken glass. Why plan on having your windows break if you can board them up to totally protect them? Plus, if the storm passes and your windows don’t break, then you have to scrape off dried up tape.

Hurricanes bring more rain than tropical storms. That’s a myth. The amount of rain from a tropical storm or hurricane depends upon how fast it is moving and how much moisture it is holding. Hurricane Georges left two feet of rain in Mobile in 1998. Tropical Storm Allison in Houston dropped the same amount in June of 2001.

An early start to the hurricane season means things will be bad. Not necessarily.

A late start to the hurricane season means things will be calm. Not necessarily. Andrew was the first official storm of the 1992 season and it didn’t form until middle August.

Homeowners insurance covers rising water from floods. No. You need a separate flood insurance policy.

If the snakes are active in the spring the hurricane season will be bad. There’s no proof that any animal or creature can predict a hurricane season. Many animals react to the weather that has already occurred. Since all weather is connected around the world it is possible that certain combinations of heat and moisture are associated with a pattern that helps to form hurricanes but no one can verify that either.

katrina surge
Storm surge from Hurricane Katrina on Rabbit Creek.

Animals, birds, and insects act differently when hurricanes approach. Yes, they may since hurricanes bring a big difference in pressure, wind, and humidity. That does not mean that every time animals act differently a storm is coming!

Storm surge is the deadliest part of a hurricane. Storm surge can be deadly but it’s not the most deadly part of a hurricane anymore. Now, more people are killed in inland freshwater flooding as they underestimate the power and depth of moving water.

A tied-down mobile home is safe during a hurricane. Generally not, especially if you get a direct hit from a category two or higher. Even if the frame of the home is tied down, most mobile homes are not as strong as a standard home built from the ground up.

Hurricanes are becoming more severe. Not necessarily but the impact is growing. There are cycles where you may have quiet hurricane seasons for a few decades, followed by active ones. The effects of hurricanes are greater because more people than ever live along the coasts and we own a lot of property and items that are expensive. A storm that might not have bothered too many people 50 years ago will now be a much bigger and costlier problem.

Once a hurricane passes, the worst is over. Yes the worst wind is over but the rain may continue, tornadoes may occur, and you may spend days without electricity dealing with mosquitoes, and displaced snakes and alligators.

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