Copy Editing Notes

Notes from LAKANA Copy Desk

June 2017

Ain’t no reason for hurricane season …

Hurricane season began June 1, and with NOAA predicting 11 to 17 named storms, with two to four becoming major hurricanes, there should be plenty to write about over the summer and fall.

Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons:  These are three terms for the same storm, applied based on where the storm originates.  Hurricanes are spawned east of the international date line – the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific coasts of the Americas. Typhoons develop west of the line – near Asia. They are known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean and Australia.

Storm names:  NOAA releases a list of storm names every year (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutnames.shtml) .  Occasionally, names will repeat; and sometimes when a storm is particularly brutal, such as Katrina, a name will be retired. While these names may be masculine or feminine, do NOT use gender pronouns with a hurricane. It’s always an it, no matter what its name is.  Capitalize “hurricane” when it comes before the name of the storm. “Florida was leveled by Hurricane Homer.”

 Storm strength: Tropical depressions are the beginning stage of hurricanes, with loose organization and wind speeds of 38 mph or less.  Tropical storms are better organized and have wind speeds between 39 and 73 mph.  Beyond that, hurricanes are measured with the Saffir-Simpson scale, with increasing numbers from 1 to 5 based on strength. Category 1 is 74-95 mph winds, category 2 is 96-110 mph, category 3 is 111-129 mph, category 4 is 130-156 mph and category 5 is anything 157 mph and above.  Anything category 3 and above is considered a “major” hurricane.

Storm tracks: One of my very favorite weather terms used on-air is the “spaghetti plot.” This is the multicolored set of squiggles that represents all the different projections of where a given storm might go.  These can vary wildly, but will usually start to merge as the storm nears landfall, but not always.  As an example: Until the hour Hurricane Katrina made landfall, one course projection had the storm striking Galveston, Texas.

Storm hazards: Hurricanes pack a blistering package of threats that can leave your viewing area in shambles.  Of course there’s the usual wind and rain, this time on completely ridiculous scales. (Example: In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped 40 inches of rain on Houston, causing historic levels of damage.)  Add in the occasional tornado just for fun, usually in the outer fringes where the organization is weaker.  Then, and often bringing the most coastal damage, is the storm surge, which is basically a high tide on steroids, with a wall of storm-pushed water moving inland and covering everything in its path.

We will probably talk more about weather as the summer goes along, but for now, don’t forget your umbrella!

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