The past few weeks have been quite a time for weather. First Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, then Irma wreaked havoc on the Caribbean and Florida, and as I write this, another storm, Jose, is churning up the Atlantic, ready to inflict catastrophic damage on who knows where.
My heart goes out to all those affected by these storms. My parents and sister live in southwest Florida, and I spent the past few days worried sick about them. They’re well and their property is safe, but it was a very scary time not only for them, but for millions of people throughout the state.
In spite of everything they’ve been through, however, they’ve often told me how glad they are not to live where there are blizzards. On the other hand, I am thrilled to not deal with hurricanes on a regular basis. I went through Irene here in Vermont, and that was enough. But all the hurricane talk lately has made me curious: how do blizzards and hurricanes compare, anyway? I mean, if you put a hurricane and a blizzard in a fair fight, who’d be tougher/meaner/stronger/more devastating? Both can cause a great deal of damage. But really, how do the two stack up?
Let’s take a look at some facts about both.
• A hurricane is characterized by thunderstorms, strong winds and heavy rains.
• Hurricanes can impact areas of up to 600 square miles.
• A hurricane can cause wind speeds of 74mph to over 155mph.
• A typical hurricane can dump 6 inches to a foot of rain across a region.
• Every second, a large hurricane releases the energy of 10 atomic bombs.
• Hurricanes can also produce tornadoes. They are not as strong as regular tornadoes and last only a few minutes.
• Slow moving hurricanes produce more rainfall and can cause more damage from flooding than faster-moving, more powerful hurricanes.
• Hurricane Floyd was barely a category I hurricane, but it still managed to mow down 19 million trees and caused over a billion dollars in damage.
• Most people who die in hurricanes are killed by the towering walls of sea water that comes inland.
• The man who first gave names to hurricanes was an Australian weather forecaster named C. Wragge in the early 1900s.
• [editor’s note: figure for Harvey and Irma are not yet compiled] According to the Weather Channel, the worst hurricane in US history, Katrina, created a storm surge that penetrated six miles inland across most of South Mississippi, and up to 12 miles inland along bays and rivers. There was catastrophic flooding in 80 percent of New Orleans and a total of $108 billion in damages in all areas affected. The storm claimed 1,577 lives in Louisiana.
• When a snow storm with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibility of less than a 1/4 mile for more than three hours occurs, it is considered a blizzard.
• Blizzards can also occur after a snowfall when high winds cause whiteouts and snowdrifts, which decrease visibility.
• Although most blizzards last from 4 hours to 10 hours, they’ve also been known to last 10 days.
• Blizzards are generally limited to a much smaller area of coverage than hurricanes.
• Blizzards that occur on the East Coast are commonly known as Nor’Easters. Because of the presence of the Atlantic Ocean, the storm blows over the ocean and can last for up to 24 hours and dumps huge amounts of snow over the area.
• The Great Blizzard of 1888 is considered the worst blizzard in US history. Affecting many states in the northeast, 400 people died, 200 ships sank, and snowdrifts were 10 or 15 feet high.
In a fair fight, I think the hurricane comes out on top. It’s more ferocious, affects more people, and the damage it produces is incredible. Plus when it’s over, you have lots of flooding and destruction. After a blizzard, you have terrific skiing. I’ll stick with that.