Don’t Get Caught Off Guard — Understand Storm Terminology

We are currently in the middle of hurricane season. And that means that anytime you turn on the weather channel or watch the weather segment on the news, you are going to hear technical weather terms. Most of us know what a hurricane is, but do you know the difference between a tropical depression and a tropical storm? And when you hear these terms, do you know what precautions to take to protect your property if one of them hits your part of town? Most people don’t.

Low Pressure System

When you hear this term, be prepared for a cloudy day with some rain. A low pressure system occurs when the wind is circulating with the rotation of the earth, counterclockwise in the United States. This push forces the air upwards, which causes condensation, cloud formation, and eventually rain.

How to prepare: Low pressure systems can happen on any given day, and isn’t something to be concerned about. You should pay attention to local weather to determine how strong the low pressure system is. In the most extreme cases, strong winds and heavy rain will happen, which can sometimes turn into flash flooding.

Subtropical System

This type of storm is in between a low pressure system and a tropical system, meaning it shares a few characteristics of both. It is also referred to as a tropical depression. It will be stronger than a low pressure system, and can have wind speed of up to 39mph. Typically, this storm isn’t very strong, but they can be big. What makes them dangerous is the fact that their winds extend over a radius of sometimes 100 miles — which is huge considering most storm winds stay close to the center.

The National Hurricane Center says “They are driven by different energy sources. While tropical storms derive their energy from warm waters below, subtropical systems receive most of their energy from cooler forces in the upper atmosphere. Subtropical storms tend to be weaker than tropical storms and pose less of a threat. Subtropical storms also are unlikely to rapidly intensify.”

How to prepare: Because these storms are not very strong, not much preparation is needed. They are big, but not strong enough to cause extensive damage. If there is one in your area, taking shelter is recommended because the rain and wind can last a long time.

Tropical System/Storm

When a tropical storm’s winds have increased and are sustaining between 39 – 73 mph, it becomes a tropical storm. Like we mentioned, a subtropical system is big and unorganized, but as it turns into a tropical storm, it becomes more organized and starts to form into a circular shape with an actual eye, or focal point. These storms are strong, and in the United States have caused a little over $6 billion in damage since 1979, according to the National Storm Damage Center. In 2001, the Houston area was hit with Tropical Storm Allison, causing extensive damage and flooding. If one hits your area, it’s not uncommon to see the following type of damage:

  • Roof damage due to strong winds
  • Window and siding damage to your home or office because of wind and flying debris
  • Property damage, including cars and outdoor AC system
  • Flooding
  • Mold
  • Interior damage
  • Sewage backup

How to prepare: Preparing for a tropical storm system is very similar to preparing for a hurricane. The National Storm Damage suggest:

  • Have supplies on hand to board and barricade your property
  • Have fresh drinking water readily available and stored somewhere safe
  • Have battery operated TV or radio and extra batteries
  • Keep food stored that does not need to be cooked or refrigerated
  • Evacuate coastal areas or areas facing severe weather
  • Make sure your insurance policy protects you as much as possible from tropical sStorms and hurricanes
  • Make sure gas tanks are full
  • Have extra cash handy
  • Make sure you are aware of flood dangers


A hurricane, also called a typhoon, is a massive storm that forms over tropical oceans. They grow by using the heat and energy off the warm ocean waters, and can sometimes be up to 600 miles in diameter. When a hurricane forms, it starts out as a tropical depression, then moves up to a tropical storm. When its winds are sustained at 75 mph or higher, it is labeled a hurricane and named. As Houstonians remember, the last major hurricane to hit our area was Ike. It was a record breaking hurricane, causing $22 billion of damage to Galveston, Houston, and the surrounding area.

Hurricanes have three basic characteristics:

Wind. Wind speed is the deciding factor on the strength of a hurricane, and are classified into 5 categories. Hurricane winds can be violent and always blow in the same direction as the storm.

Pressure. According to the National Weather Service, “Hurricanes form because of differences between zones of high and low pressure. The zones collide and produce pressure. A hurricane, once formed, also produces its own pressure system. The central air pressure within is lower than the pressure that surrounds it and lower than the environment through which it moves.”

Storm surge. Because the wind and force of a hurricane is so strong, a storm surge is created and can cause serious damage. This is the reason people are told to evacuate and to stay away from the coast. The storm surge effects the already existing tide. The surge, combined with waves, causes water to crash against the shore and can shoot up to as high as 30 feet.

How to prepare: The storm damage caused by a hurricane will be the same as a tropical storm, only much stronger. Hurricanes also have the potential to cause flooding, which can be especially dangerous to your property. When a hurricane hits, you want to make sure you have a plan in place to get things back to working order as quickly as possible. The longer your business is unable to operate, the more loss you will experience.

We work with businesses, apartments, and commercial shopping centers all over the United States, and have a plan of action in place when they get hit by a large storm or hurricane. The immediate steps you take after a hurricane will determine how quickly your business can bounce back. Give us a call and let us create a plan for you.

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