Lethal Wind

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How strong are derecho winds?

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While derecho winds typically are less than mph, gusts as high as mph have been recorded equivalent to those with strong EF2 tornadoes. What are the dimensions of a derecho? A derecho wind damage swath must extend more than miles about kilometers. This criterion is used to eliminate more common, shorter-lived, and generally less-organized wind-producing convective systems.

Although no formally-recognized width criterion exists for a derecho, the nature of the storm systems responsible for their development dictates that most derechos span at least 50 miles 80 km in width. What is the origin of the term "derecho? Gustavus Hinrichs, a physics professor at the University of Iowa, in a paper published in the American Meteorological Journal in While the term was used in the meteorological community for a short time during the late nineteenth century, it disappeared from use for nearly years until resurrected by severe weather meteorologists in the mids.

Can derechos be recognized by characteristic cloud formations or the general appearance of the sky? The atmospheric conditions moisture, temperature, and winds that determine how and when clouds form and what shape they take vary markedly in derecho environments. As a result, the appearance of an impending derecho-producing storm typically varies from one event to the next, and over time during the life of a given event. Variations in the background lighting by the sun determined by time of day, season, degree of atmospheric clarity, etc.

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Many derechos are, however, preceded by ominous-looking "shelf" clouds that form in the zone of rapidly rising air on the leading edge of the storm system's outflow winds. In addition, derecho-producing storms tend to appear darker than most, especially when viewed from the ground during the late afternoon or early evening. Who is most at risk from a derecho? Those outdoors are most at risk in a derecho.

Campers or hikers in forested areas are vulnerable to being injured or killed by falling trees, and people at sea risk injury or drowning from storm winds and waves that can overturn boats. Occupants of cars and trucks also are vulnerable to falling trees and utility poles.

High profile vehicles such as semi-trailer trucks, buses, and sport utility vehicles may be blown over.

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Hurricanes are massive storms with deadly force. Find out how they form, and what's being done to better predict their impact. Storm surges and flooding are the two most dangerous aspects of hurricanes, accounting for three-quarters of deaths from Atlantic tropical cyclones, according to a study. A third of the deaths from Hurricane Katrina , which made landfall off the coast of Louisiana in and killed approximately 1, people, were caused by drowning. Torrential rains cause further damage via flooding and landslides, which may occur many miles inland.

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Although extremely potent storms have formed in the Atlantic, the most powerful tropical cyclones on record have formed in the Pacific, which gives storms more room to grow before they make landfall. Hurricane Patricia, which formed in the eastern Pacific off Guatemala in , had the strongest winds recorded, at miles km an hour.

The strongest Atlantic storm was Wilma in , with winds of miles km an hour. The best defense against a hurricane is an accurate forecast that gives people time to get out of the way.

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The National Hurricane Center issues hurricane watches for possible storms within 48 hours and hurricane warnings for expected storms within 36 hours. Climate change may be driving more frequent, more intense extreme weather, and that includes hurricanes. The hurricane season was one of the most active on record, with 22 major hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere in under three months, and also saw seriously devastating Atlantic storms.

While a number of factors determine a hurricane's strength and impact, warmer temperatures in certain locations play an important role. In the Atlantic, warming in the Arctic could drive future hurricane tracks farther west , making a U.