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Hazards - Tropical Cyclones

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Overview of Tropical Cyclones

Tropical cyclones are massive storm systems that form over the ocean and move towards land. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale rates tropical cyclones’ maximum sustained winds on a Category 1-5 scale. The higher the category, the greater potential for property damage. Threats from tropical cyclones include high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, and tornadoes. 


  • Review your five steps on your Pathways to Preparedness
  • Decide early whether you will evacuate, and where you will go if ordered to leave
  • Prepare your home



  • If you don’t live in an evacuation zone, find a safe room within your home (an interior room, closet, or bathroom)
  • Do not go outside during the storm until the National Weather Service confirms the storm has left the area



  • Return home when local officials say it is safe
  • Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media
  • Avoid walking or driving through floodwaters


Quick Facts

  • The difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane is wind speed:
  • Tropical storms usually bring winds of 39-73 mph
  • Hurricane wind speeds are at least 74 mph
  • Know your terms:
  • Watch – conditions possible within 48 hours
  • Warning – conditions are expected within 36 hours
  • The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak occurring between mid-August and late October.
  • Tropical cyclones rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around the eye. The rotating storm clouds create the “eye wall” which is the most destructive part of the storm.
  • Evacuate if you live on the barrier islands, along the river, in a flood-prone area, or in a mobile/manufactured home. 


Potential Impacts

Tropical cyclones can cause loss of life and catastrophic damage to property along coastlines and can extend several hundred miles inland. The extent of damage varies according to the size and wind intensity of the storm, the amount and duration of rainfall, the path of the storm, and other factors such as the number and type of buildings in the area, the terrain, and soil conditions. The effects include the following:

  • Death or injury to people and animals;
  • Damage or destruction of buildings and other structures;
  • Disruption of transportation, gas, power, communications, and other services;
  • Coastal flooding from heavy rains and storm surge; and
  • Inland flooding from heavy rains


Historic Events

Although there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Brevard County and its hurricane history, and whether or not we even experience hurricanes, Brevard was impacted by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, which caused an estimated $75 million in damages. Please read the Hurricane Matthew summary for more detailed information on this event in Brevard County.

  • From August 18-23, 2008, Tropical Storm Fay stalled on top of Brevard County producing record setting rain that exceeded 20 inches and caused extensive flooding.
  • On August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley swept across the state and affected northern Brevard and produced heavy debris and hurricane force wind gusts. On September 3rd, a couple of weeks after Charley, Hurricane Frances affected Brevard producing wide spread wind damage. Jeanne came through the same year on September 26th. Jeanne’s hurricane force gusts produced extensive wind damage in southern Brevard. While the southeast section of Brevard experienced some hurricane force winds, the majority of the county experienced hurricane-force wind gusts and strong tropical storm force winds.
  • The center of Category 4 Hurricane Floyd passed about 115 statute miles off the coast of east central Florida on September 15, 1999, producing wind gusts to near 70 mph. The areas hardest hit were coastal sections of Brevard.
  • Category 1 Hurricane Erin made landfall near the Sebastian Inlet in southern Brevard on August 2, 1995. This storm produced wind damage and extensive flooding countywide. It also spawned a tornado in Titusville which caused minor damage.
  • On September 3, 1979, Hurricane David grazed the coast of Florida as a Category 2 storm. Though it made landfall as a Category 2 storm, the strongest winds were localized to the immediate area around landfall. The highest reported winds occurred in Fort Pierce, 70 mph sustained winds and 95 mph gusts. Because the hurricane remained near the coastline, Hurricane David failed to cause extreme damage in Florida.

Brevard County Emergency Management Office

1746 Cedar Street
Rockledge, Florida 32955
Tel: (321) 637-6670
Fax: (321) 633-1738

Kimberly Prosser

Email Brevard County Emergency Management Director Email the Emergency Management Office
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