Hurricanes get their start over the warm tropical waters of the NorthAtlantic Ocean near the equator. Most hurricanes appear in late summer or earlyfall, when sea temperatures are at their highest. The warm waters heats the airabove it, and the updrafts of warm, moist air begin to rise. Day after day thefluffy cumuli form atop the updrafts.

But the cloud tops rarely rise higher thanabout 6,000 feet. At that height in the tropics, there is usually a layer ofwarm, dry air that acts like an invisible ceiling or lid.Once in a while, something happens in the upper air that destroys this lid.

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Scientist don not know how this happens. But when it does, it’s the first stepin the birth of a hurricane.With the lid off, the warm, moist air rises higher and higher. Heat energy,released as the water vapor in the air condenses. As it condenses it drives theupper drafts to heights of 50,000 to 60,000 feet. The cumuli become toweringthunderheads.

From outside the storm area, air moves in over the sea surface to replacethe air soaring upwards in the thunderheads. The air begins swirling around thestorm center, for the same reason that the air swirls around a tornado center.As this air swirls in over the sea surface, it soaks up more and more watervapour. At the storm center, this new supply of water vapor gets pulled into thethunderhead updrafts, releasing still more energy as the water vapor condenses.

This makes the updrafts rise faster, pulling in even larger amounts of air andwater vapor from the storm’s edges. And as the updrafts speed up, air swirlsfaster and faster around the storm center. The storm clouds, moving with theswirling air, form a coil.In a few days the hurricane will have grown greatly in size and power. Theswirling shape of the winds of the hurricane is shaped like a dough-nut. At thecenter of this giant “dough-nut” is a cloudless, hole usually having a radius of10 miles.

Through it, the blue waters of the ocean can be seen. The hurricane’swind speed near the center of the hurricane ranges from 75 miles to 150 milesper hour.The winds of a forming hurricane tend to pull away from the center as thewind speed increases.

When the winds move fast enough, the “hole” developes.This hole is the mark of a full-fledge hurricane. The hole in the center ofthe hurricane is called the “eye” of the hurricane. Within the eye, all is calmand peaceful.

But in the cloud wall surrounding the eye, things are verydifferent.Although hurricane winds do not blow as fast as tornado winds, a hurricaneis far more destructive. That’s because tornado winds cover only a small area,usually less than a mile across. A hurricane’s winds may cover an area 60 mileswide out from the center of the eye. Another reason is tornadoes rarely last aslong as an hour, or travel more than 100 miles.

However , a hurricane may ragefor a week or more (example: Hurricane Dorthy) In that time, it may travel tensof thousands of miles over the sea and land.At sea, hurricane winds whip up giant waves up to 20 feet high. Such wavescan tear freighters and other oceangoing ships in half. Over land, hurricanewinds can uproot trees, blow down telephone lines and power lines, and tearchimneys off rooftops. The air is filled with deadly flying fragments of brick,wood, and glass.Words/ Pages : 604 / 24

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