Sep 26, 2022 - News

Storm watch glossary: Important words you need to know

Illustration of a cloud in the shape of a brain raining on an open umbrella

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

You'll be hearing a lot of weather jargon in the next few days. Here's some help:

Eye: The relatively calm center of the hurricane, where winds are around 15 mph.

Eyewall: A ring of cumulonimbus clouds near the center, where the strongest winds are found.

Hurricane watch: Sustained winds greater than 74 mph possible.

Hurricane warning: Sustained winds greater than 74 mph expected.

Landfall: The intersection of the surface center of a tropical cyclone with a coastline.

Rain bands: Curved bands of clouds and thunderstorms that spiral away from the center of the hurricane.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale: A 1 to 5 categorization based on a hurricane's intensity.

  • Cat 1: Very dangerous winds between 74 mph and 95 mph, will produce damage
  • Cat 2: Extremely dangerous winds between 96 and 110 mph, extensive damage
  • Cat 3: Winds between 111 and 129, devastating damage
  • Cat 4: Winds between 130 and 156, catastrophic damage
  • Cat 5: Winds > 157

Storm surge: That's the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says storm surge is historically the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the U.S. It can travel miles inland, especially up bays and rivers.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that hurricane watches and warnings are defined by sustained winds greater than 74 mph (not 64 mph).


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Tampa Bay stories

No stories could be found

Tampa Baypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more