Hurricane, cyclone and typhoon. What is the difference? They are all tropical systems which only form in warm tropical waters. In the southern hemisphere they rotate clockwise, and in the northern hemisphere they rotate counter-clockwise. This is due to a force known as the Coriolis Effect.
While it's true that a tornado is similar to a hurricane – they are both rapidly rotating columns of air – tornadoes will form over land and are usually associated with supercells (a type of thunderstorm). Hurricanes, on the other hand, form over warm water, either tracking inland or further out to sea to die out due to less favorable conditions. Hurricane warnings can be in place for several days. Tornadoes are short-lived and form with little warning.
Hurricane season in the US begins on June 1 and lasts until November 30, covering the entire summer season. For that reason, it's wise to keep an eye on weather reports during any coastal vacation. Several hurricanes have caused widespread damage from as far south as the Caribbean to as far north as New York and eastern Canada.
The Caribbean hurricane season runs the same time as the United States, June to November. Many of the hurricanes which affect the US (including those massive destructive ones like Katrina, Sandy
Typhoon season, which impacts several parts of southeast Asia and mainland Asia, starts in May and runs until the end of November. Occasionally, there are outliers like Pabuk which smashed into Thailand's southern coast in January 2019 before tracking its way northwest.
Cyclone season in the Pacific Islands and Australia generally runs from November 1 to the end of April, with activity generally peaking around February and March.
In the northern Indian Ocean, systems can happen all throughout the year, however most common between April and December with peak activity during May and November. The southern Indian Ocean has a shorter season.
There are two levels of alert for tropical storms, and hurricanes; 'watch' and 'warning'.
WATCH: indicates a potentially destructive storm could strike your area within 48 hours.
The intensity and potential for destruction of a storm are indicated by its "category". Category 1 is the lowest intensity (below that it's high winds, gale or storm), Category 5 is the highest intensity. There are some variations to this across the world, but generally, the higher the "storm signal" number, the sooner and more intense the storm is likely to be. China uses a color-coded system, orange and red are not good news.
The best way to survive a hurricane is to avoid one – get away from it – but make the decision to leave early. Don't wait until the last minute because you may find yourself caught without proper shelter.
If you decide to stay and ride it out, it's advisable to get to an authorised evacuation center. The locations of these will be broadcast, or locals will know where they are. If there is no shelter, prepare to "shelter in place" in an internal room without windows.
Once a storm watch has been issued, make sure you are prepared in the event that the watch becomes a warning.
If you are injured or become ill, please seek medical aid and contact your travel insurance 24-hour emergency assistance. Be aware that any functioning hospitals and clinics will be busy caring for other people and there may be long delays. If you are in a region with no operating medical facilities please contact your travel insurance 24-hour emergency assistance immediately.
The situation you are in can be extremely stressful. Call home and your country's consulate or embassy to let them know where you are, if you are alright and if you need any assistance. Keeping an item of comfort nearby, such as a family photo, religious item or listening to your favorite music, can often offer comfort in such situations. Call the emergency assistance line for your travel insurance should you need immediate attention.
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Mexico has a range of natural hazards, from hurricanes to volcanic eruptions and dangerous rip currents; it's important travelers know how to prepare and stay safe.