Nearly every year, one or more hurricanes affect some part of the world, wreaking havoc and causing destruction along the way. These are powerful and dangerous storms, with many associated hazards. They cannot be stopped, however, they can be predicted and prepared for. Wind, water, environmental damage, and contamination, all take their toll on lives, property, and the economy of the regions that are impacted.
The wind associated with a hurricane is the most obvious danger. Winds that frequently go over 100 mph can easily pick up homes or people, topple trees and power lines, and generate a rash of tornadoes that only add to the chaos. The resulting power outages can last for weeks and become much more than a simple inconvenience. Without power, it is impossible to cool buildings, and keep perishables refrigerated. Winds are also responsible for the increased tidal surges that affect areas along the coasts and well inland. When the height of the storm arrives at high tide, the situation becomes even more severe.
Flooding is one of the most dangerous and far reaching effects of hurricanes. Floods due to storm surge and potential heavy downfalls can last for weeks, making homes and businesses unusable, leaving people homeless, destroying crops, and upsetting the natural balance of nature. Major flooding disrupts the economy of the region, and in some cases, closes businesses entirely.
Hurricanes can damage the fishing industry by destroying boats, and disrupting fishing grounds. Obviously, they also have a great effect on the tourist industry, and damage to beaches can take years to correct. This same flooding often pushes wildlife further inland, to areas where they are not normally found. In areas where alligators and poisonous snakes are found, these may be pushed, or transported by the storm into residential areas.
Once the flooding has subsided, the storm damage can take months to correct, and one of the biggest problems can be the resulting contamination. During flooding, chemicals and raw sewage can wash into water systems and into homes. Everything from fertilizers, and pesticides, to gasoline and motor oil may have contaminated large areas. According to the EPA, this is one of the most dangerous lingering aspects of the hurricane. Less severe, but still unhealthy, is the problem of mold and mildew brought on by water and heat.
Hurricanes have far reaching and long-term effects on the communities that they impact. From the first catastrophic winds to the resulting contamination, they are storms that may take months or even years to recover from.