The extremely powerful Typhoon HAIYAN that struck the Philippines was spawned by the large amount of heat energy stored in the equatorial waters of the Pacific. With an absence of a cooler and drier surroundings, HAIYAN steamed like a runaway train until it crashed into the Philippine Islands.

The nearest equivalent environment in the Atlantic Basin is the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The tropical easterlies are part of the conveyor belt that transports equatorial heat t the Yucatan area. The Gulf Stream is an extension of this belt creating a threat of a Cat 5 hurricane along the Gulf Coast and the southeast coast of the U.S.

While the intensity of hurricanes is labeled by its peak winds, the death toll and destruction is largely caused by the storm surge and flood waters. According to my 50 years of experience in studying these storm, I find it hard to believe that the Jacksonville area could be struck by a hurricane stronger than Cat 4. That would be catastrophic because of all of our crashing trees and flying debris. But a more deadly effect would be the inland flooding combined with the storm surge, and there is some uncertainty about how extreme that would be.

The National Hurricane Center has pointed out that Storm Surge is not directly related to the peak winds of a hurricane. Other factors such as the angle the storm strikes the coast, the shape of the shore line, the slope of the continental shelf, and the excess or lack of rainfall can be unique to each hurricane situation.

The best advice I can give is to pay attention to the advise of the National Weather Service, your county Emergency Operation Centers, and the latest reports on WJXT Channel 4 when a hurricane threatens our area. Fortunately half of the hurricanes remain at seas, and the chance of one striking here is less than most other coastal cities. Remember that the weather is not set in concrete. It can be extremely volatile. When it comes to hurricanes, be prepared to expect the unexpected!



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