Detecting a Hurricane While at Sea

Detecting a Hurricane While at Sea

Detecting a hurricane while at sea can be the difference between life and death, and it is essential to know when it is coming. A coming hurricane is always a cause for concern, but more so if it occurs while you are at sea. They can potentially cause severe damage and possibly even loss of life. It is especially alarming considering their unpredictability.

Hurricanes generally consist of several thunderstorms coinciding. Their collective action produces a powerful spinning formation that is genuinely fearsome. In some cases, they can even cause tornadoes to form, which could manifest as a spiral column of water. 

As a marina insurance agent, your clients may sometimes face the threat of a hurricane at sea. What can they do in these situations? How can they detect an impending storm and hopefully take steps to avoid it? 

Signs of a Nearby Hurricane at Sea

One could spot a nearby hurricane by noticing the suddenly darkening skies, which could occur in minutes. Sometimes, the storm may be so severe as to cause the sky to turn almost black. 

The darker the sky becomes, the thicker the clouds are. The atmosphere may also become frighteningly still and calm minutes before the hurricane hits. 

The type of clouds visible isn’t usually an accurate indicator of the presence or severity of a hurricane. Some of the strongest storms display through different cloud formations at varying altitudes.

An abrupt change in wind speed is a clear sign that one is about to enter the hurricane zone. The conditions can be relatively calm, followed by a powerful gust the next. Heavy rain may also begin to fall, with the water drops whipped fiercely by the wind. 

Sometimes, people caught in the middle of a hurricane detect a sort of “electric” charge in the air. Radio reception may be affected, and St. Elmo’s lights may appear at the ends of pointed metal objects. 

Seeking Refuge from a Hurricane 

Even before the hurricane strikes, it is vital to head toward a safe harbor and avoid being in the middle of the storm. But if it is unavoidable or the vessel is already in the midst, sending out a call for assistance could save lives. 

Establishing contact with rescue services or the coast guard is essential. Your clients should communicate clearly with rescue personnel, providing crucial information to help direct the vessel to a safe port. 

Always prepare a checklist of details to share, such as location, weather conditions, vessel name, and direction. If anyone suffers an injury or there is damage to the boat, then rescue services must be aware of this information. 

Predicting Storm Movement

Experienced seafarers know how to predict storm movement and where a hurricane is likely to head. Although storms are generally unpredictable, some knowledge about common patterns could help your clients chart a course for safety and possibly even save the lives of everyone on board. 

Squalls usually follow the movement of the upper winds. One cannot predict how the wind blows, especially during a fierce storm. Rather than trying to figure out storm direction by the wind, it might be more helpful to determine what type of storm it is. 

Thermal Storms

These typically occur in the summer. They generally veer about 20° to the left of surface winds.

Polar Front Storms

These can be violent in humid conditions. They generally follow the air layers where they are contained, often moving away from the surface wind.

When out at sea, it is crucial to watch the weather closely and monitor radio reports from reputable sources. Remember that conditions can change drastically within minutes, so a sunny cruise could quickly become life-threatening. Knowing the signs of an impending hurricane and how to avoid it will help keep your clients safe when out on the open sea. 

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.