Georgia Storms!


There are three major types of storms that occur in Georgia and the most common is the thunderstorm. A thunderstorm is simply a storm that produces visible lightning and thunder. The energy needed to produce the thunder and lightning is tremendous. This energy comes from the huge cumulonimbus clouds or thunderheads, that can reach as high as 60,000 feet into the sky. During an average year, more than 16 million thunderstorms occur. At any given point on an average day, 1,800 thunderstorms happen, producing over 6,000 lightning flashes per minute! 

Most of the world’s severe thunderstorms happen right here in the United States. The area east of the Rocky Mountains is the world’s best breeding ground for thunderstorms. The main ingredient needed for a thunderstorm is a warm, moist air mass. Thunderstorms occur when this warm, moist air becomes unstable and is forced upward into the cooler atmosphere. The average thunderstorm lasts from 25 to 40 minutes with the heaviest rainfall happening during the first 15 minutes. The amount of water from this rainfall can be enormous, averaging 500,000 tons in a typical storm!!! 

We also have tornadoes in Georgia. Tornadoes are the most violent of all the Earth’s storms. Tornado winds can exceed 300 mph! Nothing is safe in the path of a tornado. 

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that stretches from the base of a cloud to the ground. The destructive force of a tornado comes from the increasing speed with which air turns as it tightens into a funnel. Most tornadoes are caused by the same weather conditions that produce thunderstorms. Almost all tornadoes occur when the air temperature is above 65 degrees F. Almost all “killer” tornadoes happen along frontal boundaries between cold and warm air masses. These tornadoes usually happen along with hail, continuous lightning and right after the heaviest downpour of rain. Tornadoes can happen in all 48 contiguous states, but most happen in the states east of the Rocky Mountains. In fact, over 75% of the world’s tornadoes happen in the United States. Here’s a bit of trivia, waterspouts are weak tornadoes that form over water. They suck up water instead of dust. They can cause damage, but since they are so easy to see over the water, they are usually avoided by boats and ships. Oh yeah, they can move over land and become regular tornadoes, but rarely do.


The third type of storm that sometimes affects parts of Georgia is the hurricane. Fortunately, Georgia has not been actually struck by a hurricane in about a hundred years. In some parts of the world, they are called cyclones or typhoons but here in the United States, we call them hurricanes! Hurricanes are nature’s most destructive storms. They are large tropical storms with winds of at least 74 mph. Hurricanes can last anywhere from two to fourteen days. They cause huge amounts of rain, have destructive winds, and can cause flooding from the ocean. Hurricanes start out as tropical storms that form over the warm tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Warm, moist air begins to form groups of thunderstorms. If the water is warm enough, at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit, these groups of thunderstorms will grow and grow. Once they get large enough, the earth’s rotation or coriolis effect, causes this mass of thunderstorms to spin. The spin causes more and more warm air to be pulled in, creating a huge tropical storm. A tropical storm can be hundreds of miles or kilometers across.


All Atlantic tropical storms travel in a west or northwest direction, towards the United States. They are pushed across the ocean by the prevailing Trade winds. As long as the water is at least 80 degrees, the winds of the storm will get stronger and stronger. Once the wind speeds reach at least 74 mph, a hurricane is formed. If the hurricane leaves warm water or crosses land, it begins to die out. The most dangerous part is the storm surge. Huge waves of ocean water pushed along by the hurricane cause the storm surge.


Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones are all the same kind of storm. The different names tell what part of the world they happen in. Hurricanes are classified by wind speed on a scale of 1 to 5. A category 5 is the most dangerous type of hurricane.