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Where Hurricanes Strike


With the 2019 Hurricane season upon us, the BestPlaces Lab has created this stunning visualization of regions in the U.S. most at risk from hurricanes. BestPlaces cartographer and data specialist Nick Arnold created this beautiful image by aggregating every hurricane track from the past 170 years.

The map clearly shows how much of the country is affected by these devastating storms. We often think of hurricanes impacting just the coastal regions, but the storms continue far inland, bringing powerful winds and catastrophic flooding.

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To create this map, Nick used data from the the NOAA Office for Coastal Management, analyzing over 1500 tropical cyclone events since record keeping began in 1851.  At BestPlaces, we use this spatial analysis to create our Natural Hazards indices for hurricanes, as well as earthquakes, flooding, hailstorms, windstorms, and tornadoes.  

Here are some of Nick's insights about hurricane behavior in the United States...

1. The strongest hurricanes tend to happen in the deep South where the warmest waters fuel the storms. Places like the Florida Keys and southern tip of Louisiana get a LOT of Hurricanes. 

2. The two hurricane tracks crossing Kansas that are independent of other hurricane activity are very likely singular events.  But note the activity around the Tucson Arizona region.  It's not common but the Southwest is hit by a small percentage of Pacific cyclones. 

3. On the map we see some counties in Indiana being affected by hurricanes. It may be surprising to see that some tropical severe weather systems occasionally impact the Midwest. Once a tropical storm makes landfall, it is still considered an organized storm until the central storm circulation has dissipated. This often lasts for days as storms move across the Eastern U.S. and can result in devastating flooding in severe storms such as Hurricane Sandy.

4. In the United States, it's the Westerly Trade Winds that are responsible for giving hurricanes their general path across the US and North America. Tropical cyclones start out in the tropics where prevailing wind patterns are from East-to-West. As storms move across the Atlantic toward North America they tend to slide northward, sometimes make landfall, and eventually get caught up in our the Mid-latitude Westerly Trade Winds which carry the storm back to the East and off to sea in the Atlantic Ocean.

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