Hurricanes

These powerful tropical storms can be up to 1,000 miles (1,600 km) wide, and up to nine miles (14 km) tall! They form over the ocean in warm, tropical areas and when they reach land, they cause great devastation.

Hurricanes

The word ‘hurricane’ comes from ‘Huracan’ – the god of big winds and evil spirits worshipped by the ancient Maya people of Central America. In the Indian Ocean, they are called ‘Cyclones’ and in the Pacific Ocean, they are called ‘Typhoons’.

The storms form when the ocean water is 80ºF (26ºC) or warmer. This can happen between June and November (in the Caribbean/Atlantic) or as early as April/May (in the Indian Ocean and Pacific). When warm, moist air rises over the ocean, it is replaced by cooler air, which warms and rises as well. If winds blow in the same direction, this cycle can form huge storm clouds that begin to rotate with the Earth’s spin.

The centre of the hurricane (called the ‘eye’) is the calmest spot, but at the edge of the eye (the ‘eyewall’), winds can reach 80–150 mph (129–241 kph) – the speed of an intercity train!

Some hurricanes are over in a few days, while others last several weeks. Strong winds, heavy rain and large waves (known as storm surges) cause severe damage, flooding and sometimes landslides and mudslides. Hurricanes lose some of their strength when they travel over land, so coastal areas are the hardest hit.

Did you know?

  • Hurricanes rotate anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. This is due to the Earth’s spin.
  • Hurricanes are measured from 1 to 5, according to their wind speed. Category 1 is 74-95 mph (119–153 kph), while Category 5 is 156 mph (251 kph) or higher.
  • Hurricanes are named alphabetically by the World Meteorological Organization. Starting at ‘A’ each year, they alternate between male and female names (although Q, U, X, Y, Z are unused). If a hurricane does significant damage, its name is ‘retired’ and replaced with another. The names Mitch, Katrina and Harvey have retired, for example.
  • The deadliest hurricane of recent times was Hurricane Mitch (1998), which claimed at least 11,000 lives. The costliest storms were Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Harvey (2017) each costing around US$125 billion.

The eye of the hurricane
The eye of the hurricane

Case Study

We’re lucky not to have hurricanes in Britain but we do have severe storms or gales (strong winds). One of the worst was the Great Storm of October 1987 where winds of up to 100mph (161 kph) caused widespread devastation and 18 fatalities. Many buildings were damaged and about 15 million trees were uprooted (causing delays to road/rail, and disturbing power supplies).

Our Hurricane Resources

Hurricane Diary Worksheet

Hurricane Diary Worksheet

Experiencing a hurricane must be very frightening! This diary worksheet asks the kids to imagine a hurricane has hit their town - can they record the event in this diary?

Hurricane Newspaper Writing Prompt

Hurricane Newspaper Writing Prompt

Imagine you're a newspaper reporter writing about a hurricane. Perhaps include lots of descriptions of the event, and eye-witness accounts too? 

Hurricane Poster

Hurricane Poster

Hurricanes are massive storms with lots of strong wind and rain - and it looks like the one on this poster is very powerful indeed! Print this poster to use in displays or project work about the weather...

Hurricane poster 2

Hurricane poster 2

This fascinating photo shows an aerial view of a hurricane - tropical cyclone Catarina. It shows us exactly what is meant by the "eye of the storm".

Hurricane Safety Leaflet

Hurricane Safety Leaflet

Do some research then practise writing skills by writing a safety leaflet about hurricanes. Print and fold along the dotted lines to make a 3-panel leaflet.

Hurricanes Cloze

Hurricanes Cloze

This hurricanes cloze worksheet is an interesting way to learn a little more about hurricanes. We've provided a number of words to be used to fill in the blanks.

Hurricanes Factsheet

Hurricanes Factsheet

Our factsheet is a great introduction to hurricanes - perfect just to read, or to use alongside some of our weather activities.

Hurricanes safety poster

Hurricanes Safety Poster

Hurricanes can be very dangerous and often do a lot of damage. This posters asks the children to design a poster alerting others to the dangers of hurricanes, and asks them to write the best advice for staying safe.

Hurricanes Story Paper

Hurricanes Story Paper

Use this dramatic story paper to write down what you've learned about hurricanes, or perhaps to write a story about one...

More Extreme Weather

Thunderstorms
Thunderstorms

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