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The Lingo Of Hurricanes

When meteorologists talk of hurricanes, they break them down into different categories that describe the strength of the storm. CBS News Field Anchor Jose Diaz-Balart explains the different categories, which he himself has experienced - in a wind tunnel at the University of Maryland at College Park.

  • Tropical Storm: 40-73 mph.
"These are the strongest winds that emergency personnel will be willing to go out and get you," Diaz-Balart explains. "After this wind if it gets heavier, you're on your own."

A tropical storm can loosen vinyl siding from homes and damage foliage.

  • Category 1 Hurricane: 74-95 mph.
As the wind increases, so does the sound. A Category 1 hurricane can uproot trees and blow the shingles off rooftops.
  • Category 2 Hurricane: 96-100 mph.
"At 100 miles an hour - to give you an idea - cars are starting to move," Diaz-Balart says.

Although cars are not actually blowing away at this point, the winds can be devastating to most property. Homes become more vulnerable as roofs sustain intense damage.

  • Category 3 Hurricane: 111-130 mph.
At 115 mph, Hurricane Bonnie is currently a Category 3 storm.

"If I were to try to walk, I would be blown away," Diaz-Balart says.

These strong winds can tear the plywood and sheeting off roofs and blow uprooted trees. There is very little that any structure can do to prevent major damage at this wind speed.

  • Category 4: 131-155 mph.
  • Category 5: 155 mph and higher.
"I feel as though someone took a two-by-four and just clobbered my entire body," Diaz-Balart says after the experience.

If there is one place that knows the fury of a hurricane, it's
Miami's Dade County, which was struck six years ago by Hurricane Andrew, a Category 4 storm.

At 155 mph, Andrew killed 61 people, destroyed thousands of homes, and caused $30 billion in damage. The citizens of Dade County were ready for Bonnie, but it passed them by.

Chuck Lanza, Director of Miami-Dade Emergency Management explains how residents can prepare for an approaching hurricane.

"We spent the weekend preparing the county," Lanza told CBS News. "We were getting ready to notify people about evacuation and sheltering."

When the hurricane turned north, Lanza says, it put the county "out of harm's way."

Andrew changed how homes are built in southern Florida.

"Since that time, we have implemented a new building code which is much stronger than the original code," Lanza says.

Hurricane Andrew blew out windows, doors, and tore off rooftos. New building codes require storm shutters on homes. The shutters can handle Category 3 storms. A new roofing system requires that the entire roof stays together as a single unit, as opposed to being made in pieces so it falls apart, allowing the wind to destroy the home.

One of the problems after Andrew hit was getting power and water out to sea.

"We have worked closely with power companies. They have crossed lines and make sure they have supplemental backup power," Lanza says.

Residents also prepare their homes with emergency generators and by stocking up on fresh water. Lanza also ensures that critical facilities such as fire stations, police stations, and hospitals have backup power.

For residents who experienced Hurricane Andrew, the extra time taken to bolster homes is not just a precaution, but a means of avoiding devastating loss they remember too well.

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