The strongest winds in a hurricane are generally found in the right side of the hurricane’s eye wall, the area closest to the center.
Coastal and other land areas this part of the storm passes over generally experience the worst damage, although no part of a hurricane should be considered less dangerous. Especially in stronger hurricanes, damage to structures, roofs, trees, etc. from the wind itself, and damage from flying debris as it strikes other objects, is common.
Once a hurricane makes landfall, wind speed will begin to decrease, and within 12 hours will have slowed significantly. However, winds can remain at hurricane strength well inland, as evidenced by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which hit Charlotte, North Carolina, 175 miles from the coast, with wind gusts of almost 100 mph.
- Structures built to meet or exceed current building-code high-wind provisions have a much better chance of surviving violent windstorm.
- Garage doors are frequently the first structural element to fail.
- Windows should be storm-shuttered or covered with plywood.
Hurricanes can also spawn tornadoes, which can increase destruction. These tornadoes generally occur in the right front quadrant of the storm, and in thunderstorms embedded in the hurricane, but not immediately near the center.
Not all hurricanes produce tornadoes, while some develop multiple tornadoes. According to the National Hurricane Center, “studies have shown that more than half of the land-falling hurricanes produce at least one tornado; Hurricane Beulah (1967) spawned 141 according to one study.”
- It’s estimated tornadoes cause 10% of hurricane-related deaths in the United States.
- They usually occur within 24 hours after landfall and within 150 miles of the coast.
- Tornadoes can occur well inland two or three days after landfall if a hurricane interacts with a cold front.
- They occur most often during the morning and afternoon and usually occur within 30 miles of the center of the cyclone.
- Tornadoes can also form in outer rain bands 100-150 miles from the center.
- They can generate winds up to 300 mph at a forward speed of 60 mph and are usually 100-300 yards wide.
- Gulf of Mexico hurricanes produce more tornadoes than Atlantic storms.