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Hurricanes Page 3

Predicting the Unpredictable

Part 3: Nature’s Fury

By Sar Perlman — August 2003

 More of this Feature
• Hurricane Prediction
• Crystal Ball, Tuning In
• Nature’s Fury
• On The Web
• Tropical Cyclone Facts

 Related Resources
• Feature Index

Nature’s Fury
Despite all the emphasis on forecasting, Stewart feels that it is only half the battle—getting the public to act is just as important. He relates the story of what he considers the most difficult forecast he ever had to make. In late April 1991 Tropical Cyclone 2B, a monster Category Five tropical cyclone, was meandering for two days in the Bay of Bengal. Despite fairly accurate forecasts, the powerful cyclone caught the residents of Bangladesh off guard with estimated winds of 160 mph and a storm surge of more than 20 feet. Some 138,000 people perished, and nearly 10 million were left homeless.

“While the forecasts were quite good, the results were still horrific—and those sobering thoughts and tragic memories factor into each forecast that I make today,” he says. “People should always remember that we are no match for nature’s fury and that they need to take appropriate action should that time ever come.”

Tropical Depression: wind speeds of less than 34 knots
Tropical Storm: wind speeds of 35 to 63 knots
Hurricanes: wind speeds of 64 knots and above

Hurricanes are further categorized according to the strength of their winds using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale:

Category One: 64 to 82 knots
Category Two: 83 to 95 knots
Category Three: 96 to 113 knots
Category Four: 114 to 135 knots
Category Five: 136 knots and higher

It is thought the first use of a proper name for a tropical cyclone was by an Australian forecaster early in the 20th century, who named tropical cyclones after political figures whom he disliked. The practice caught on—although leaving politics out of it—and today most cyclones, except for those that form in the West Pacific or North Indian Oceans, are given proper names.

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This article originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.