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EDUCATION with Student News

Quick Guide & Transcript: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane hunters


(CNN Student News) -- August 31, 2005

Quick Guide

The Mean Season - Understand how hurricanes spin to life and what fuels their power.

Hurricane Hunters - Fly into the eye of a storm with the scientists who do that for a living.

Spoken Word - Teach your class a term that could be used in assessments of hurricanes and tornadoes.



MONICA LLOYD, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Hey, thanks for joining us for this special edition of CNN Student News: The Mean Season. I'm Monica Lloyd. Residents of three Gulf Coast states are struggling to recover -- and in some cases, survive -- in the aftermath of Monday's massive storm. We cover all the angles of hurricanes in today's show, beginning with the headlines:

First Up: Hurricane Katrina

LLOYD: A day after Hurricane Katrina crashed through, authorities rushed to evacuate refugees in New Orleans as conditions deteriorated. Boats and helicopters were used to reach those who'd climbed to the attics and roofs of their homes. Flooding was worsened when a hole formed in one of the levees protecting the bowl-shaped city, allowing water from Lake Pontchartrain to spill in.

Officials in neighboring Mississippi say they expect the death toll to be heavy, though no official estimates are available yet. As many as 30 residents of an apartment complex in Biloxi are believed to have been killed when the building collapsed. And while some are promising to rebuild their homes and towns, others are doubtful if that can be done anytime soon.

But federal funds will be available to help, following President Bush's declaration that Louisiana and Mississippi are major disaster areas. The president arrives back in Washington today to oversee relief efforts. On a separate note, he took a moment yesterday to commemorate the anniversary of the Japanese surrender in World War Two. And he said the U.S. would also win today's war against terrorism.

Mean Season

LLOYD: Getting back to Katrina; one report described New Orleans as looking more like a war zone than a modern American metropolis. As water rose in the streets and smoke rose on the horizon, some 30,000 people huddled in the Louisiana Superdome, where toilets overflowed and there was no air conditioning. You know what caused all of this, but do you know how Katrina got started? Our first report today by Deanna Morawski brings you the basics on hurricanes.


DEANNA MORAWSKI, CNN STUDENT NEWS REPORTER: The power of a hurricane. Last year alone, four major storms hit U.S. shores, leaving behind unspeakable devastation.

MAN ON THE STREET: You just don't mess with mother nature, that's for sure. By golly.

MORAWSKI: So how does nature develop that kind of strength? To begin with, every storm needs a fuel source. For hurricanes, the main ingredient is warm water -- with ocean surface temperatures reaching at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. For that reason, hurricanes tend to form near the equator. It's also why hurricane season kicks off in June, and tends to peak in August and September, when ocean temperatures are highest. You can think of a hurricane as a giant heat engine, feeding off of that warm water.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It takes the warm water from the ocean, it'll evaporate that warm water, and then suck it up into the storm. And the updraft will bring it up inside of the storm, cool it, condense that air, and when you condense air into water, it releases a tremendous amount of heat, so that's where the heat engine continues its cycle.

MORAWSKI: When the warm, moist air rises, it lowers the atmospheric pressure of the air beneath. Since air tends to move from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure, that creates wind. The earth's rotation causes that wind to swirl -- a process known as the "Coriolis effect." The Coriolis effect increases in intensity farther from the equator. So as hurricanes move toward the poles, they continue to strengthen, reaching wind speeds of up to 200 mph for as long as they have the means to grow.

MARCIANO: The way a hurricane will die down quickly is you take away its fuel. Take away the warm water. So if you run the hurricane into land, there goes the warm water, so it quickly dies. If you run that hurricane into, say, a batch of cooler water, it will also die that way.

MORAWSKI: Hurricanes last an average of 3 to 14 days, and cover as many as 4,000 miles... Leaving a trail of destruction if they make landfall. But surprisingly, strong winds are not the most deadly part of these storms. Flooding and storm surges are often far more dangerous.

MARCIANO: The storm surge itself can lift the ocean level from two or three feet upwards to 10, 15, and in some cases, 20 feet high. So it can push all that ocean water in quite quickly, and back before we had satellites, back before we had computer models to help us forecast, that storm surge is what killed most people.

MORAWSKI: Technology has come a long way since meteorologists relied on reports from ships sailing the ocean. Today, satellite snapshots taken from space and computer programs that can synthesize data from all over the world can translate to several days' warning of a hurricane's arrival. Literally a lifesaver to those in the path of the storm. For CNN Student News, I'm Deanna Morawski.


Is This Legit?

CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS REPORTER: Is this legit? Hurricane-force systems that affect western Australia are called willy-willies. This one's true! Such storms are known as typhoons in the western Pacific, cyclones in the Indian Ocean, and willy-willies in western Australia.

Hurricane Hunters

LLOYD: The hurricane hunters who fly into major storms to get information about them, say Katrina was personal. Their squadron home at Mississippi's Keesler Air Force Base, suffered severe damage. Now they were able to evacuate many of their planes before the storm hit. And that enabled them to continue staring storms in the eye, as you'll see in this report.


MONICA LLOYD, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: The flight deck aboard a hurricane hunter airplane is busy, noisy and very coordinated. Their goal is to pierce the storm at just the right angle so the plane flies through the eye of the hurricane.

HURRICANE HUNTER: The most spectacular is when we fly into the a storm when you have a clear eye. You go from blackness and bouncing all over the place and lightning to total calm conditions with blue sky and the sun. This kind of thing is pretty spectacular.

LLOYD: The group of scientists slash pilots slash engineers are made up of both military and civilian ranks. These folks put it all on the line in order to better understand hurricanes but also to help save people's lives.

One of the most important elements on these flights is the release of these skinny tubes known as 'drop-sans' a sophisticated science lab in an oversized tootsie roll wrapping. And they're expensive...these tootsie rolls cost over 600 bucks apiece. But the information they provide is priceless.

HURRICANE HUNTER: It's got a little parachute in it, almost like a little drag comes out of the top. it has a pressure sensor in it, for atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.

LLOYD: GPS and radio links get that information back on board. After being reviewed by these experts, the data then gets sent to the national hurricane center to be included in their forecast models. All of this to assist people on the ground to make the most vital of calls: should I stay or should I go?

HURRICANE HUNTER: a big part of what we do is give them the wind field on the entire storm so that when they put out a warning, it can be as small as possible but still safe. It costs about a million dollars a mile to evacuate. businesses, lost business, all that sort of thing. so they really do try to keep that area as small as possible. but the bottom line is, when they tell you to evacuate, they usually mean it.

LLOYD: You might think this type of hurricane flight is bumpy and dangerous, but hurricane hunters say it just depends on the storm.

HURRICANE HUNTER: Some of the strongest hurricanes can be the smoothest rides, and some of the mildest tropical storms out there can be the roughest rides.

REPORTER: What does your family think of you flying around in hurricanes all the time?

HURRICANE HUNTER: They think I'm a little bit crazy, but they understand it's something I really enjoy and am fascinated with.

LLOYD: A fascinating line of work...with an undeniably fascinating view of mother nature's mean season.


Spoken Word

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: What happens is that there is so much spin, we call it vorticity, but all it means is that the atmosphere is spinning. When we take the hurricane and push it on land, that spin starts to slow down because of the friction of the land. Obviously, the land is more porous, it has more friction than the flat ocean. The ocean is just one big flat surface, no friction at all.

Word to the Wise

vorticity: (noun) a measure of the spin of an air mass such as a hurricane Source:


LLOYD: Today's special edition of CNN Student News closes with this look at the aftermath of a storm, whose effects could be felt for years to come. I'm Monica Lloyd, and we hope you'll tune in again tomorrow.

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