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Test Your Knowledge: Hurricanes

Categories: General, Natural Disasters, Preparedness

aerial view of hurricane over the AtlanticThe 2012 Hurricane Season starts Friday, June 1st, but we’ve already seen some action with two storms, Alberto and Beryl, that battered Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina with heavy rains and strong winds. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) unveiled its 2012 predictions last week, estimating between 9-15 tropical storms this year, with up to 8 storms reaching hurricane strength and up to 3 major hurricanes. 

Hurricane season spans six months (June 1 – November 30), so to get you in the right frame of mind and ready for anything Mother Nature has in store, we decided to post some hurricane trivia (you can also wow your friends will all your storm knowledge at the next dinner party).

Tropical Storm vs. Hurricane

There’s a lot of lingo associated with hurricanes, between tropical depressions, cyclones, storms, gales, typhoons and more, it’s hard to keep things straight. Here’s a quick and dirty breakdown of the terms you need to know to be ready.

Tropical cyclone – is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters. (Trivia: tropical cyclones rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere)

Tropical Depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes are all forms of cyclones…so what’s the difference?

  • Tropical Depression – A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38mph or less
  • Tropical Storm – A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39-73mph
  • Hurricane – A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74mph or higher. (trivia: in the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons and in in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean they’re called cyclones)
  • Major Hurricane – A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111mph or higher – which translates to a Category 3, 4, or 5.

Watch vs. Warning

While you’re listening to your trusty weather radio (which should be included in your emergency kit, along with these items) you might hear the National Weather Service issue watches and warnings…so what’s the difference?

A watch means that hurricane or tropical storm conditions are possible in the specified area, usually within 48 hours of the onset of tropical storm force winds. If your area is under a hurricane or tropical storm watch, prepare your home and review your plan for evacuation in case a warning is issued.

A warning means that hurricane or tropical storm conditions are expected in the specified area, usually within 36 hours of the onset of tropical force winds. If your area is under a hurricane or tropical storm warning, finish your storm preparations and follow instructions from local officials about evacuation.

What’s in a Name?

List of Atlantic hurricane names

List of Atlantic hurricane names, this list will start over in 2018

So how did Alberto and Beryl get their names, and can I name the next one? Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named by the National Hurricane Center, mainly to clear up confusion when reporters are giving updates or warnings. If you were hoping to name the next storm think again, the World Meteorological Organization maintains six list that are cycled through each year (so 2012’s list will appear again in 2018). If a storm is extremely deadly or costly its name will be retired from the list, for example Katrina was removed in 2005.    

Know that you’ve had a crash course in hurricanes; make sure your home and family are prepared. Check out the hurricane resources on to learn more about preparing before, during and after a storm. Be a force of nature!

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. June 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm ET  -   Gregory Martin

    Our family experienced two storms named Bob while on vacation. We rode out the first one. I think it was only a catagory 1 storm. We ran from the second. That name was retired.

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  2. September 1, 2012 at 4:25 am ET  -   Gıda

    I have never experienced it but i think it is horrible. I have watched a few news with it, it is very very strong thing.

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  3. June 24, 2013 at 11:00 pm ET  -   hannah

    You should put a hurricane Kilee in there somewhere…. please and thanks

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