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Breezy Montana

A big hurricane slammed into the East Coast of the United States last week. Hurricane Florence had strong winds, up to 105 mph, and has dumped almost 3 feet of rain on parts of the state of North Carolina.

Only days later, a typhoon struck the Philippines, which are islands in the South China Sea. Typhoon Mangkhut had winds of more than 100 mph, with gusts of more than 130 mph.

Typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones are all different names for the same thing — tropical storms. They all build up as warm ocean water heats up the air. The warm air rises, slowly cooling off. As more warm air continues to rise, it generates high winds that create one of these storms. Wind speeds have to be at least 73 mph to become a tropical storm.

The high winds can cause big ocean waves. When the waves reach a coastal area, they are so strong that they can push water back up rivers. This is called a storm surge. If a storm, like Florence, drops a lot of rain and it can’t drain down rivers because of the storm surge, the water gets spread over the land, causing flooding.

The storms eventually die after reaching land, since there is no more warm water to feed them.

Typhoons take place in the western North Pacific Ocean and Philippines. Hurricanes happen in the Atlantic Ocean and the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Cyclones build up over the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. Each storm is given a human name by weather scientists, like Florence, to help identify it.

The storms are also given a rating, based on how strong they are, ranging from Category 1 through 5. A Category 5 storm, the Typhoon Manghut, is the most powerful and dangerous. Hurricane Florence started out as a Category 4 storm before dropping to Category 1.

Scientists predict that as oceans grow warmer, bigger hurricanes may occur. Luckily, places like Montana don’t need to worry about hurricanes since we are so far from the ocean.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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