Breakdown: Why the eye of a hurricane is calm, but still deadly

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 1:07 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A hurricane is the strongest type of tropical cyclone, a weather system that derives its energy from warm ocean waters and is characterized by a closed counterclockwise circulation in the Northern Hemisphere.

It typically has a cluster of thunderstorms around the center of circulation and bands of thunderstorms spiraling outward.

Hurricanes consists of three major parts: the eye, eye wall and rain bands.

On land, the center of the eye is, by far, the calmest part of the storm, with skies mostly clear of clouds, wind and rain. Over the ocean, however, it’s also the most dangerous: inside, waves from all directions slam into each other, creating monster waves as tall as 130 feet.

If you could slice into a tropical cyclone, it would look something like this. The small red...
If you could slice into a tropical cyclone, it would look something like this. The small red arrows show warm, moist air rising from the ocean's surface, and forming clouds in bands around the eye. The blue arrows show how cool, dry air sinks in the eye and between the bands of clouds. The large red arrows show the rotation of the rising bands of clouds.(NASA)

The reason for the beautiful weather (on land) attributed to the eye is the simple fact that while the air is rising to the top anywhere else in the storm, in the eye it is actually sinking, bringing warm air. This also explains why no rain is falling from the eye and why so many eyewitness accounts have actually reported seeing beautiful blue skies.

It’s described as the sudden stillness that follow the ravages of a howling storm; many have commented on the blue skies and sunshine that suddenly replaces the grey and black clouds that have been swirling above your head for such a long time; some have recalled on the sudden warmth that comes like a spring morning after the continuous pounding of rain and tornadoes.

Though the passing calmness might tempt you to come out of your home or shelter, the National Weather Service strongly recommends that you stay indoors because circling just outside the eye are the winds that make up the eyewall. The eyewall is the most intense part of a hurricane.

This is where the cyclone’s greatest fury, chaos, ferocious rains and greatest destruction is. It’s the scariest, nastiest, gnarliest part of the storm. In the strongest hurricanes, these winds can roar more than 140 miles per hour.

Eyewalls don’t just produce winds with epic speed. Their winds also blow in many different directions and there is the distinct danger that the storms, wind, and rain will start up again without a warning.

By leaving your shelter, you may actually put yourself in danger. Many are often caught off guard by violent winds from the opposite side of the eyewall.

Thus, even if you suddenly hear nothing and it looks like a beautiful sunny day outside, do not leave your safe room unless you are prompted to do so by the authorities.

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