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What would happen if you are in a hurricane or a tsunami?
Question Date: 2020-01-17
Answer 1:

Hurricanes and tsunami are two VERY different types of disasters.

A hurricane is a powerful, rotating storm that forms in warm ocean waters near the Equator. Hurricanes are influenced by weather and climate (a warming climate means warmer ocean waters, which helps hurricanes form easier, grow faster, and grow stronger). If a hurricane is coming, the area may be evacuated. That's the safest thing to do. I've never personally experienced a hurricane, but if you were to experience one you would expect some REALLY strong winds (at least 74 mph, but can be >150 mph winds). Because the waves that form from hurricanes are wind-driven waves, these really strong winds can push the ocean around - even onto land! When that happens, we call it a storm surge - the sea level actually rises because the winds are pushing the ocean. Because hurricanes slow down once they make landfall, they can cause a LOT of rain to fall - which means that on top of the strong winds and storm surge, there will probably be quite a bit of flooding, depending on where the hurricane makes landfall and how strong it is. Sometimes flooding can do the most damage - like with Hurricane Harvey, and how a lot of Houston flooded. And, in the end, you're probably pretty likely to survive a hurricane.

NOAA has a really good infographic for kids about how hurricanes form, and I've included it for you here.

Unlike hurricanes, tsunami are NOT caused by or influenced by weather and/or climate. A tsunami happens when a large amount of water is displaced (pushed away) very quickly. A good way to think about this is if you were to fill the bathtub (mostly) with water, and then drop something into it. There will be waves that go outwards in all directions from wherever the water was displaced (this is pretty hard to imagine in your head, so here is a link to a YouTube video with a good animation that can show you what I mean: video ).

There are several things that can displace a large amount of water - if certain types of earthquakes occur underwater, if a landslide occurs underwater, if a landslide falls into water, if a volcano partially collapses into water, or if a large meteorite were to hit the ocean (that really happened when the dinosaurs died). Tsunami waves move REALLY fast - sometimes >500 mph in the deeper ocean, but when the waves reach the shore they slow down (which causes them to get bigger in size).

Tsunami move as "blocks" of water, and usually there is more than one wave. They travel very fast, are very powerful, and are EXTREMELY dangerous. Some coastal areas (like Santa Barbara) are at risk for tsunami. The best way to stay safe is to be prepared ahead of time - know where tsunami evacuation routes are in your area. If there is a strong earthquake, you should head inland. You MAY (in some cases) see the ocean "pull back" and expose the ocean bottom. You won't be able to outrun a tsunami, so if you can see the wave, you want to get as HIGH as possible by climbing a tree or a building or anything. If there's nothing to climb, grab something that will float and hold on TIGHT. Unfortunately, if you're not out of the way, the chances of surviving a tsunami are low - which is why it's important to know what to do!

This sounds silly, but this EXACT thing happened in 2004, when a 10-year-old British girl was on holiday with her family in Indonesia when the 2004 tsunami hit. There was no warning system, but the little girl had JUST had a lesson on tsunami, and knew the warning signs. She started screaming and yelling until her parents and other people left the beach and headed for higher ground. That little girl saved a LOT of lives that day.

I hope this has helped to explain the difference between hurricanes and tsunami for you, and helped you to better understand both of them. Have a great day!

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