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Amazing Facts: Hurricanes

"Board up the windows, haul your boat onto dry land, get in a supply of food and water -- there's a hurricane coming!" These words are all too familiar to those who live on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Central America, the United States, and Canada. (There are hurricanes in the southern hemisphere, too.) The force of a hurricane, which can pack winds of 75 to 200 miles an hour, is truly awe-inspiring. These big, circular storms, up to 600 miles across, also produce high seas and major coastal floods. It's no wonder that the native peoples of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean saw these great storms as a sign of a god's anger. The name they gave this god was Huracan, controller of the mighty wind. The name was adopted by European explorers, so today the TV weather forecaster is paying tribute to a forgotten but powerful being without knowing it.

In light of the above, is it or is it not a coincidence that on the east coast of Asia, the same type of huge, violent storm is probably also named after a supernatural being? To the ancient Greeks, Typhon was a monster who roared out flames and smoke (lightning and thunder). When Typhon and other destructive giants were buried under Sicily's Mt. Etna by the gods, their struggles to escape produced earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The name of Typhon appears to have spread eastward as far as Asia, giving us the name of the fearsome Pacific typhoon.

As for the two other well-known types of circular wind storm, the cyclone comes from the Greek kyklos (circle), while tornado was originally the Spanish word tronada (thunderstorm). Whether it's a hurricane, typhoon, cyclone or tornado, better plan to stay out of it.

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