Have you been wondering what is the difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane? If you’re not from here, you probably didn’t have to give it much thought until now–a storm is a storm, right?

Now you’re living in South Florida, there are times when it helps to understand a hurricane vs tropical storm. As the kids here say, the difference between the two can mean whether you’ll be vibin’ at home or stuck on I-95.

Windspeed Makes the Difference Between Tropical Storm and Hurricane Designation

That’s it. Hurricanes have more internal windspeed than tropical storms.

These storms begin as tropical depressions in areas of low pressure. The strongest Atlantic storms originate off the west coast of Africa, near the Cape Verde Islands. Very hot and dry air from the Sahara meets cooler air from the Gulf of Guinea further south off the African coast and blows northwest in tropical waves.

The National Hurricane Center identifies tropical depressions by number. If wind speeds inside the storm reach 39 mph, the storm is classified as a tropical storm and given a name that remains with it until it blows itself out. They are upgraded to hurricane status at 74 mph.

Tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes are collectively known as tropical cyclones.

What’s in a Storm Name?

Tropical storms had female names until 1979 when male names were added. Even with this addition, the 2005 hurricane season, when Katrina hit, was so active the list of approved names was used up. For the first and only time, the Hurricane Center gave new storms names based on the Greek alphabet for an additional four tropical storms and two hurricanes.

How to Protect Yourself from a Hurricane

When it comes to protecting yourself, there’s little difference between tropical storm vs hurricane. Tropical storms can cause serious damage even at “just” 73 mph and below.

First, follow evacuation orders, even if they’re issued before, so-called, lesser hurricanes. (Really, 73 mph is hardly a breeze!) It’s especially important to evacuate if you’re near the water because of storm surges, the abnormal rise of water from a storm can be overwhelming if they coincide with high tide. This is what caused the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.

Ways to Protect a Home Against Hurricanes

Whether you stay or leave, you must protect your home from hurricanes and tropical storms as required by building codes in South Florida. This means understanding how to protect windows from hurricanes as well as exterior doors.

  • Impact windows are the best single choice to keep out rain and wind and deflect debris tossed around in storms. We sell and install several different styles of these windows, which are made with two panes of impact-resistant laminated glass. A PVB layer is sealed between the two glass layers to reinforce strength and provide further protection from debris.  These windows are missile-tested to stand up to 175 mph wind speeds and most debris flung at them. If they break, they spiderweb instead of shattering and sending in glass shards.
  • Hurricane shutters that fold over windows are also acceptable but often dent and may get stuck in place after deflecting debris. Many people who live near the ocean have both impact windows and hurricane shutters.
  • Impact doors swing outward and are stronger and heavier than regular exterior doors. They include front doors, French doors, garage doors, and sliding glass patio doors, held in place by heavy-duty aluminum frames.

Read more tips on protecting your home from storm damage. We hope you’ll contact us with your questions about hurricane-resistant windows and doors.