Tag Archives: Coriolis Effect

Hurricane – be prepared?

I have collated my hurricane survival pack, but is it all just hype and a waste of $ and time?


What are the facts? 


I excitedly downloaded some apps for hurricane watching, my enthusiasm a little dampened to find my husband already had them on his iPad (grudgingly I accept that his job in insurance makes them more than a passing interest). I spent a few happy hours watching Tropical Storm Erin, almost sad to see it fizzle out in the mid Atlantic.


Quote from Bermuda online (a really useful website if you ever consider moving here):

Studies conducted by the Bermuda Weather Service found that from 1609 to the present day devastating storms affect the island every six to seven years. Our tropical cyclone or hurricane season is from May through to November, with an average of one storm passing within 180 nautical miles of the island every year




It doesn’t take much research to discover that the last really big hurricane here was Fabian in 2003 – the library has numerous islander accounts of the event and 4 people died.  Windspeed was over 105 knots with gusts at 145 knots, waves reached heights of 35 feet and the storm surge was over 11 feet.



1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 1.15miles per hour = 1.82km per hour

(wind is considered a navigational fluid and hence measured in knots by meteorologists, but translated into miles per hour for most of us)


A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds of 74mph (64 knots) or higher. The name is thought to come from the Mayan God of Wind, Huracan.  In the Pacific they are called typhoons.  As it develops it grows from a tropical disturbance to tropical depression to tropical storm then hurricane.

I absolute love the topic of weather and clouds and climates, it probably came from a really good geography teacher, but to save me boring you I will distill it into a few sentences:


  • Sun warms the sea and warm moist air rises, leaving a low pressure area underneath ( a depression)
  • Winds spiral inwards, due to the low pressure and the Coriolis Effect (spin of the earth)
  • The system gains energy from water vapour condensing into cloud.
  • The winds blow counter-clockwise in Northern hemisphere forming a closed spiral of storms
  • Categories are determined by wind speed, 1-5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (1973) (Robert Simpson experienced his first hurricane aged 6, went on to become a storm-chasing meteorologist and is now 100)
  • A storm surge is a wall of ocean that the hurricane brings as it breaches land.



http://www.nasa.com   (this website is amazing – has problem based learning modules and fun stuff)


The University of Florida actually has a hurricane simulator.


Now, where was I? 


I guess the basic question I am trying to answer is whether (ha) I am likely to experience a hurricane while on Bermuda.


Back in April, Dr Jeff Masters (http://wunderground.com) predicted 18 named storms and 9 hurricanes in the Atlantic.

Names, by the way, are selected in order from six lists of alternating male/female and a name is retired if there are fatalities.

I was initially sceptical, but it turns out that Jeff Masters is a meteorologist, lectures at university level, runs the Weather Underground website and writes a really intelligent blog. You can find them on Facebook where they post some really beautiful photographs of weather.


Erin was the fifth named tropical storm in the Atlantic this year in a season that extends from June to November.

The risk rises as the seas get warmer


Current sea temperature around Bermuda is 85 (really good swimming) and average windspeed yesterday across the island was 10 knots.  There are no alerts or warnings on any of the five apps I downloaded (I did say I get excited by weather).

So my survival pack sits by the door “in case


What’s in it? 


  • Torch x2 (a super light LED one that floats and has a secret compartment + a bike headlamp)
  • Wind-up radio
  • Spare clothes x2 sets
  • Blanket
  • Towel
  • Toothbrush etc
  • Food – pilchards, beans, sweetcorn, cereal bars and nuts
  • Water (in non-BPA bottles)
  • Can opener (overkill I expect as the cans all have easy open tops)
  • Knife, Spoon, Bowl, Cup
  • Waterproof document holder with passport, residency permit and cash,
  • Notebook, pen, book, batteries,
  • First aid kit, ibuprofen, sunscreen



Anything else you can think of?


Whenever we go on holiday I am greeted with a sigh of inevitability as I emerge from the house with “just one more thing” to fit in the car – it could be wellingtons, towels, washing up bowl (we camped a lot) or just a map book, but I always had something extra and thus I am still teased that it will be the same if we have to leave the house for a hurricane …. I can’t think what it will be, but I wouldn’t want to disappoint!


I haven’t really answered my question, and have probably scared everyone away from visiting.

To put it into context, before Fabian most storms veered off before reaching Bermuda; Arlene in 1963 caused some damage but nobody died, then further back the only really damaging one was one in 1926 (the naming system wasn’t in place at that time) which did result in 88 deaths, but all were from the Valerian British warship anchored close to Bermuda. Since Fabian there have been two tropical storms passing close by – Florence in 2006 and Igor in 2010.


Bermudian buildings are built to withstand strong winds – the older ones are limestone and the newer ones concrete, with limestone roofs and hurricane shutters on windows so I don’t envisage being homeless.  It is likely that the power will go and as good as Belco are, we may not have power for water pumps, toilets or cooking. I have candles and lots of books to replace the TV, but am sure I will miss the internet most!


Will the kit find its way back to UK with me when we relocate? A few years ago our children gave my husband for his birthday a “survival kit”  – one they had pulled together including fire-starting kit, compass, knife, space blanket, food packs etc. along with books on how to survive in various wilderness settings.  He still has it.  So, probably, yes I will take it back to UK just as it is – assuming we haven’t used it!