AP1: What is a Hurricane

14 Jan 2012

We often hear news like ‘Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Ophelia is attacking the shoreline!’. how many people are dead and how many places are flooded.

Every time when I hear this news, the first thought that comes into my mind is: I must do a research, why do Hurricanes has so many different names!



My dear fellow toastmasters, I am presenting today: what is a hurricane, where do hurricanes take place and how are they named?


What is a hurricane?

Hurricane is a huge storm! It can blow for up to 965 kilometres and have strong winds spiralling inward and upward at speeds of 119 to 320 or more kilometres per hour.

Hurricanes gather heat and energy when it passes over warm ocean waters.

Hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise around an “eye.”  It usually happens from 1 June to 30 November and often lasts for over a week.

They are classified into five categories. Category 1 is the smallest, at 119-153 km/hour, however, Category 5 is the greatest one at the speeds of 251 km/hour or up.


Where do Hurricanes happen?

Hurricanes form in the Western North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Places like Cuba, Haiti and Florida etc.

You may like to ask how about the Typhoon and Cyclone?  Are they the same as Hurricanes?

Actually they are similar. Different places just use different names. The same storm occurring over the NW Pacific Ocean near places like Philippines, Taiwan is called a typhoon; “Taiwan – Typhoon” ,  Is it easier to remember?

Another one over Australia or the Indian Ocean is called a tropical cyclone, but the winds rotate clockwise.


How is a hurricane named?

On the Atlantic Ocean, tropical storms which reach a sustained wind speed of 63 kilometres per hour are given a name, e.i. “Tropical Storm Katrina”.  If that storm’s wind speed increases to 119 kilometres per hour or above, then, the name will change to “Hurricane Katrina”

Last year, in 2011, there were 19 tropical storms took place around the Atlantic Ocean.  e.i. Arlene, Bret, Cindy and so on.

All these names are assigned in advance, in six-year lists by the World Meteorological Organization.  It is reused every six years, and there are only 21 names per year.

The names are given in alphabetical order, but the characters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used.

So, the names in 2005 are the same as 2011.

Also, in odd-numbered years, the first name is female and the second is male. The third name will be female again.

However, in even-numbered years, the first name is male, the second is female. For example in 2012 the first name is Alberto, Beryl, Chris and then Debby. So on and so forth till ‘W’.

What happen, If more than 21 tropical storms took place in one year, what shall we do? We use the Greek Alphabet instead, like Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

If the hurricane is too drastic and cause serious damages, then that name will be removed and replaced by another name.  For example, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States.

So, Katrina was replaced by Katia so that it will not bring back sad memories in the future.      In 2005, there were total 5 names replaced.


Hurricane is a natural disaster, we really can’t do much about it, but we can save the planet by cutting less trees, producing less pollution and making less destruction of the environment. In the way, it could help to slow down the global warming.

If one day, when you travel to this areas, especially during 1 June to 30 Nov, there are some things you can do to protect yourself if a hurricane happens.

Stay indoors, basement is the best. Get a disaster supply kit nearby,  don’t forget the flashlights and batteries. Please don’t use your hand phone’s flashlight and make long calls, because you may have no electric supply to charge your hand phone.

Finally, stay calm and relax to welcome the Hurricane.




Evaluation by John Liew, ACS ALB

1. Topic relevant and engaging to the audience

The audience, who live, work and travel in the tropics, were drawn to the topic ‘Hurricane’ which is a kind of tropical storm that affects their daily lives.

2. Speech very informative, educational and interesting

Categories of tropical storm or cyclone.

Definition, characteristics and negative consequences of ‘Hurricane’ and different names in different parts of the world.

Lessons and helpful suggestions to handle situation of tropical storm or ‘Hurricane’.

3. Presentation organized and smooth, complemented by power-point slides and displaying confidence and ease of public speaking.


1.  ‘Typhoon’ would be a more appropriate speech title as it is the name of tropical storm in North-Western Pacific Basin and more familiar to the Asian audience. ‘Hurricane’ is the name of tropical storm in North-Eastern Pacific Basin and Atlantic Basin.

2. More emphasis on the relevance to and measures for the audience  e.g. lying low or take shelter to avoid lightning strike outdoor, be alert to news broadcast when going outdoor or abroad.

3. Do away with certain power-point slides that were (a) unnecessary with details not relevant to the audience, and (b) hardly legible or readable with too small prints. This would have helped to keep the speech within the time allotted.


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