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Escaping the Storm

Weather watchers are keeping a close eye on hurricanes this season.

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Pounding rain. Powerful winds. That can only mean one thing. It's hurricane season!

Already, Hurricanes Erin and Felix have battered shores on the East Coast. But some scientists think this is just the beginning. They predict bigger storms might be headed our way.

Hurricane season begins every year in June and lasts until November. Scientists keep watch during these months because hurricanes are violent storms. The winds in a hurricane are so strong they can blow down houses and uproot trees. This year scientists are watching more closely than ever. They think this hurricane season might be the most active one in 20 years.

Why Is this Hurricane Season Different?

Most hurricanes begin in warm tropical waters near the equator, like the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In 1991, an area of the Pacific Ocean got even warmer. The area, called El Niño, brought changes to the world's weather. El Niño means "the child" in Spanish, but this El Niño didn't play around. In places where it was usually dry, there were heavy rains. Other areas were too dry and suffered from droughts.

El Niño also helped weather conditions in some places. El Niño caused strong winds in tropical areas where hurricanes start. Those strong winds blew apart developing hurricane winds. But now El Niño is dying down. Hurricane winds will be able to grow strong.

While things were heating up in the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean was getting warm too. Only scientists are not sure why. The warmer the ocean is, the more likely it is that a hurricane will grow strong. This warmer water, combined with stronger winds, makes a recipe for a bad hurricane season.

What Can We Do?

A bad hurricane season could mean that many people will get hurt or lose their homes. But scientists are working hard to predict hurricanes before they happen. They hope that by using new technology to track storms, they will be able to help people prepare themselves and get out of the hurricane's path.

How Do Hurricanes Start?

1. The first ingredient in a hurricane is warm ocean air.
2. As the warm air rises, water droplets in the air condense and form clouds.
3. The air cools and rushes back down. At the same time, more warm air rushes in to fill the space.
4. The winds, combined with the movement of the earth, will blow the clouds into a huge circle. That's the beginning of a hurricane.

Storm Safety

There is no way to stop a hurricane. But there are ways to keep people safe during these violent storms.

Predicting Storms
Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GEOS) are in orbit above Earth. These new satellites send scientists information about wind and temperature. Scientists use this information to predict storms before they happen.

Testing for Safety
How well can buildings stand up to hurricane winds? Some window and door companies batter their equipment thousands of times to see if they could take the pounding of strong winds. They hope to design buildings that will stand up better to hurricanes.

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