#extreme weather: a devastating hurricane in the Czech Republic | science and planet

#extreme weather: a devastating hurricane in the Czech Republic |  science and planet

Yesterday, a severe tornado suddenly hit the south of the Czech Republic. Perhaps the most powerful ever in the country. The devastating storm left the area unknown with extensive damage, hundreds of injuries, and even some deaths.

Thunderstorms accompanied by hail the size of tennis balls and a hurricane hit southern Czech Republic yesterday. The hurricane in particular left a lot of havoc behind. Everything on its way from Hrusky to Hodonin was destroyed to the ground. As many as 120,000 families were without electricity. There were also many dead. It’s been 2018 since the country was hit by another hurricane. The strongest and deadliest in Europe this season on the spot. Some locals were able to capture the force of this hurricane on video.

A tornado or whirlwind is a column of air that rotates at a tremendous speed. An extreme weather phenomenon arises in a special type of thunderstorm, a supercell. This is the most severe type of thunderstorm that can occur. Only 1 in 1,000 storm clouds develops into a super storm and only 1 in 5 of these produce a hurricane. A supercell capable of this is recognizable by its cloud wall, a piece of cloud that appears drooping down and spinning. This is, as it were, the incubation of the hurricane. From there, when conditions are perfect, a funnel forms and as soon as it hits the ground, we’re talking about a tornado.

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How strong a tornado is expressed using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. Meteorologist Ted Fujita developed the original cover in 1971, but it was revised in 2007 to look at the damage in more detail. Because where hurricanes are classified based on measured wind speeds, for hurricanes this is done by studying the destruction they leave behind. After all, wind speed in hurricanes is difficult to measure. This is why experts assess the damage after a hurricane has passed and then estimate the wind speed. Based on this, a number is assigned to the tornado. The scale runs from EF0 to EF5.

The EF0 cyclone locally produces wind speeds of up to 137 kilometers per hour. This is strong enough to cause some minor damage and uproot young trees. However, the hurricane that swept through the Czech Republic yesterday was an EF3 or even an EF4, with winds up to 322 kilometers per hour. Strongly a category 1 hurricane. Pictures on social media clearly show the devastation this can lead to. Completely destroyed buildings, cars and debris everywhere. The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute will determine the path length, duration and strength of the cyclone in the coming days. By the way, the last hurricane of 2018 was EF1.

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Hurricanes occur on almost every continent except Antarctica. Most are found in the United States, where more than 1,200 occur each year. Especially in the period from March to June. The fact that they suffer a lot from this is largely due to the ideal geographical location. The air from the south brings heat and humidity, while the air from the west is dry and cool. Where they collide, you get super cells.

Here in Europe we see an average of 250 cyclones a year, of which 3 to 5 are in Belgium. Also in the Czech Republic there are five per year. Especially now in the summer months, the chance of a hurricane is greater. True, they are rarely as devastating here as those across the Atlantic. In the past 10 years, there have been 3,827 cyclones in Europe, according to the European Severe Storms Laboratory. Only 28 were EF3 and hardly 2 were EF4 or higher. So the cyclone in the Czech Republic was exceptionally strong. The deadliest tornado since 1950 occurred in Ivanovo, Russia. Then on June 9, 1984, there were 69 deaths. It is estimated that there are between 10 and 15 deaths per year on average. Most deaths come from F2/F3 or stronger hurricanes.

Mass destruction in the village of Muklesisi.
Mass devastation in the village of Muclecichi. © AFP

Mass destruction in the village of Muklesisi.
Mass destruction in the village of Muklesisi. © AFP

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