Circling Storm: Hurricane Katia Approaches the East Coast

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Hurricane Katia approaches the east coast. Image courtesy of the National Weather Service

Beach-lovers beware: another hurricane is approaching, and this one is called Katia.

As of the evening of September 6th, the tropical storm was set to approach the US east coast but avoid most land areas. However, rough water and dangerous rip tides are forecast from Bermuda up to the east coast of Canada.

What is a Rip Tide?

A rip tide is common when a hurricane is approaching a beach area. While we often think of tides as water that moves outward, a rip tide begins when water pushes up against the shore. The water is trapped temporarily. Eventually, the sand behind the water collapses, creating a space.  The water moves outward

Hurricanes bring dangerous rip tides. Image credit: thegnome54.

very suddenly, pulling anything in the water out to sea. It is important to avoid swimming when there are potential rip tides. If you are caught in a rip tide, the power of the tide will prevent you from moving back to the land. To return to shore, move at a right angle to the current to maneuver out of the rip tide, then work your way toward the shore.

What Do Hurricane Categories Mean?

Early this week, Hurricane Katia became a category 2 hurricane. The hurricane is expected to remain in this category until Thursday.

As the hurricane season continues, hurricane watchers and those in the way of the storms may wonder what these categories mean. What category is a lightweight storm and what category means that you need to prepare your home and perhaps even evacuate?

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used to measure an approaching hurricane. Hurricanes rank from 1 to 5 on the scale, which tries to gauge the possible sustained wind speed of the storm. This allows officials and residents to understand the amount of potential damage from a hurricane. The scale is a logarithmic scale, which means that each number on the scale is not simply a little bit higher than the last – it is actually four times higher.

Category 2 hurricanes bring a risk of roof and siding damage. Image credit: Ayla57.

A category 1 hurricane involves dangerous winds that will damage older mobile homes and remove roof coverings and items that are not structurally sound or adequately secured. A category 5 hurricane involves extensive and catastrophic damage to all mobile homes and many wood-framed homes, and damage takes months or years to clean up.

Katia is currently a category 2 storm, which means that areas affected by the hurricane will experience dangerous flying debris. There is a chance that poorly constructed homes will sustain major damage, and even well-constructed homes may experience damage to the roof and siding of the home.  Hurricanes of this category may also bring the loss of power and water for days or weeks.

As the week moves on, the east coast of the United States will watch and wait to see whether Hurricane Katia’s power continues to diminish.

References

Knabb, R. Katia Likely to Pass Just Off East Coast. Weather.com. Accessed September 6, 2011.

National Weather Service. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Accessed September 6, 2011.

University of Illinois. Rip Tides. Accessed September 6, 2011.

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