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There’s an old expression sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it”. Despite our best efforts, we remain unable to control the weather, but we can predict it and react to whatever system comes along.

Hurricanes and tornados are wind driven disasters that can wreak havoc on our lives and our property. While they’re both wind driven, there are significant differences between the two types of storms. Here are a few basic differences:

  • Hurricanes are larger than tornadoes but have less wind speed
  • Tornadoes originate over land, while hurricanes originate over water
  • Hurricanes can last as long as a few weeks, but tornados only last for a few minutes
  • Tornadoes occur over 1000 times per year, while hurricanes average 10 to 15 times per year

Flooded neighborhood streetsTo learn more about the two types of storms, let’s discuss the characteristics of each:


  • Hurricanes are circular in shape and possess a well defined center. The winds are light in the center but increase rapidly as they move toward the edge.
  • Tornados are shaped like a funnel, with a wide top growing narrower towards the bottom

Place of Origin

  • Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones are names for the same type of storm, with the differences being in what part of the world they occur. They all originate over large areas of water. Hurricanes are the storms that originate usually in the warm areas of the South Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean.
  • Tornadoes originate over land, usually in conjunction with thunderstorms.

Wind Speeds

  • Hurricane wind speeds usually top out around 180 miles per hour
  • In tornadoes, the wind speeds can go as high 300 miles per hour in severe instances

Storm Size

  • A large hurricane can grow to a diameter of 200 to 300 miles.
  • The largest tornadoes will be less than ½ mile in diameter, but are often much smaller in size

Duration of the Storms

  • Some hurricanes can last as long as 3 weeks or more
  • Tornadoes usually last for less than an hour.

tornado behind palm treesAdvance Warning

  • The area where a hurricane will make landfall can be predicted with fairly good accuracy 4 to 7 days in advance.
  • The best weather forecasters are only able to predict tornadoes 10 to 15 minutes before they strike.

Occurrences Per Year

  • Although hurricanes occur over 20 times in some years, the average per year since we started keeping records is 10 to 15 storms.
  • Tornadoes are much more frequent and can occur up to 1200 times in a single year.

Areas Affected

  • As stated above, hurricanes cover a significant area, up to 200 miles in diameter. Although the most damage from a hurricane will be close to the center of the storm, drenching rains can cover hundreds of thousands of square miles
  • Because of their much smaller size, the effects of a tornado will affect a much smaller area

Regions Susceptible to Each Type of Storm

  • Hurricanes generally affect the southeast regions of the US, the Gulf states, and the countries surrounding the Caribbean. In the past, however, hurricanes have moved as far north as New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada.
  • Although tornadoes have been reported to have occurred in just about every state, the most suitable areas for tornado formation are the Great Plains of the central US.

Time of Year

  • Hurricanes are most likely to occur during the warm summer months beginning in May or June, and the so called “hurricane season” is officially designated as lasting from June 1 to November 1. Hurricanes have also occurred outside of the official season, but that is less frequent.
  • Tornadoes can occur all year long, but they mostly form in the spring and summer seasons, with May and June being the peak tornado months.

By studying these storms, we can understand their characteristics and take preventative measures to protect our property and our lives.

Storm Smart of Southeast Florida is based in West Palm Beach and serves customers from Delray to Vero Beach. We began business on the East Coast of Florida in 2016 and have been growing ever since. Our success is based on Storm Smart’s comprehensive line of products that offer you the very best in storm protection, great installations, and a focus on customer service. Check out our reviews!

Our full line of technologically advanced systems is backed by the care and service of highly trained technicians. Whether you are building new or just want to protect your home and family better from hurricane winds, Storm Smart of Southeast Florida has just what you need. If you would like more information about our company, contact us at 561-220-7222.