COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Hurricane Katrina’s powerful wind, rain and storm surge wiped towns off the map in Mississippi. And then there’s the Smithville, MS tornado that cut a path of destruction that left behind very little to be saved. Both of these forces of nature claimed the lives of one too many. Both are also destructive and costly – but how they develop and form – is different.
“A tornado is pretty small in size and scope, very destructive and wind speeds have been measured in some of these tornadoes over 300 mph, ” WCBI Chief Meteorologist Keith Gibson.
For tornadoes to form you need a view ingredients.
We need warm dry air from the west and we also need warm moist air from the southeast. When these two air masses collide we can get this horizontal rotating column of air in the middle of the atmosphere. Over time we see this horizontal column become vertical within the thunderstorm. We call this the updraft.
This column of air moves faster and faster and eventually drops down from the base of the storm. That drop, is what we call a wall cloud. Once that column touches the ground, then we have a tornado.
Hurricanes develop in a much different way. Typically hurricanes begin as a cluster of thunderstorms moving west off the coast of Africa.
We need 3 ingredients for a hurricane. First, we need warm ocean water. Typically that “magic” number is around 80F. Second, we need sea water evaporation to partner with heat and energy which would initiate a hurricane. Third we need the air near the ocean surface to spiral air inward. That’s when we start getting bands of thunderstorms. Light upper level winds will allow the hurricane to maintain itself, or get stronger.
Hurricanes produce strong winds, storm surge and even tornadoes.
“As hurricanes make landfall especially on the northeastern side of a hurricane, that’s where we are most concerned about tornadoes and we can actually get tornadoes here in our area from hurricanes all the way down on the coast, ” says Gibson.
While these two weather phenomenons are different and develop different both have a history of becoming deadly, causing millions of dollars in damage and wiping towns completely off the map.
And in case you were wondering a Typhoon is the same thing as a hurricane but where it develops is why we call it a typhoon. Typhoons are hurricanes that develop in the western part of the pacific ocean.