More than likely, as hurricane season begins, you’ve been hearing terms that denote the specific type of tropical storm that is forming. But do you know what all of those terms mean?
Tropical Depression: This is the first official stage of tropical storm formation.
- A tropical depression is the combination of a low pressure area, thunderstorms, and wind production in a circular motion with a speed no higher than 39 mph.
Tropical Storm: At this stage, a storm receives a name.
- A tropical storm is the next progression of a tropical depression, with winds at speeds between 39 mph and 73 mph.
Hurricane: When a tropical storm becomes a hurricane, a new measurement system begins, categories that range from 1 to 5.
- A category 1 hurricane has winds at speeds between 74 and 95 mph and has a relatively low potential for damage.
- A category 2 hurricane has winds of between 96 and 100 mph and has a moderate potential for damage.
- Category 3 hurricanes range from 111-130 mph and have a strong potential for damage.
- Category 4 and 5 hurricanes are the most dangerous; with Category 3s ranging from 131-155 and Category 5s from 156 mph on. When they make landfall, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes will cause severe damage.
While this measurement system provides steps in which a tropical depression can move into a Category 5 Hurricane, there is no reason to assume movement will only be towards higher levels of destruction. Some category 5 hurricanes are reduced to tropical storms when they make landfall, and some tropical depressions never become tropical storms at all. A single storm can be downgraded and upgraded many times over throughout the course of its life.