All hurricanes were once tropical storms, but not all tropical storms go on to become hurricanes. A tropical storm is a hurricane in its infancy, but unless conditions are just right, it cannot develop beyond anything stronger than a tropical storm.
Tropical storms feature sustained winds of 39-73 miles per hour. When sustained winds reach 74 mph, the tropical storm has become a hurricane. Cristobal’s top winds gusted to 57 mph, and generated a coastal storm surge of around five feet at its highest. It never graduated beyond tropical storm status.
When is hurricane season?
In the northern hemisphere where we live, hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, the time when the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Caribbean are at their warmest. Very warm ocean water creates very warm humid air, which builds into thunderstorms and sometimes hurricanes.
When did Cristobal Start?
Cristobal started in the Gulf of Mexico, where there was plenty of warm water to fuel the atmosphere. The problem was, a bunch of dry air came in from Mexico and Cristobal, innocently spinning around in the Gulf, was foolish enough to gobble it up. This picture from Saturday, June 6 shows how dry air from the left was pulled into poor Cristobal, eroding much of his southwest side.
What did Cristobal Turn Out to Be?
Cristobal became a rather lopsided tropical storm and was doomed to stay that way. That said, the clouds and heavy rain from Cristobal spread out hundreds of miles east and north. In fact, Cristobal’s outer thunderstorm bands created a few tornadoes in Orlando, Florida. This photo was posted by WTSP-TV:
Cristobal became primarily a rainmaker, taking moisture from the warm ocean and turning it into kerjillions of raindrops of fresh water. More than eight inches of rain fell along the Gulf Coast and as it devolves, weakens, and drifts northward…all the way to Canada…it will drop a swath of mostly beneficial rain. There could be some flooding and a few severe thunderstorms before all is said and done, but overall Cristobal was a good practice run in hurricane preparedness.
Hurricane season is here. Build a preparedness kit. Have a plan. Watch your local weather forecast every day, and if a hurricane or tropical storm is brewing, put your plans and preparations into higher gear ahead of time. A close call like Cristobal is Nature’s way of keeping you on your toes, and well-practiced for the real thing, which may be yet to come.