Explain it to me: What exactly is a hurricane?

What exactly is a hurricane? Is it different than a typhoon?

When and where do tropical cyclones form and what should you do to prepare if one is heading your way?

A tropical cyclone is an area of low pressure that forms in the tropical regions of the world.

Cyclones are actually very important even though of course they can be very deadly.

They essentially help balance out the temperature across the globe, they are an equalizer. So they take the heat energy from the tropics and they translate that where we need it into the colder climates.

The generic term for it is a tropical cyclone. That can refer to any cyclone with a closed center of circulation anywhere in the world -- like in the Atlantic when they get strong enough to a certain wind speed, we call them hurricanes.

But if you're in the western Pacific, a hurricane is called a typhoon. There is no difference between a hurricane and a typhoon except in the name, they're both tropical cyclones.

The naming system is based on the world meteorological organization.

There's a list of names. Depending on the basin, in the Atlantic basin, we recycle them every six years. If a storm becomes particularly intense or is devastating for a coastline, or has a lot of causalities associated with it, we retire the name and don't use it again. For example Hurricane Katrina or Irene. Those names will never be used again .

Once a tropical storm becomes a hurricane, we use what we call the Saffi-Simpson scale. Saffir Simpson scale categorizes the hurricane from category one, which is the weakest to a category five. A category one minimal hurricane, has to have winds in it's center of 74 miles an hour.

As the storm continues to gather strength and becomes more intense, if it reaches 96 miles an hour, that's a category two. A category 3 has winds of 111 miles an hour. If it continues to intensify, that is a deadly category four storm. And then the strongest of hurricanes, category five. that is pretty devastating stuff.

Definitely heed the warnings and get yourself a preparedness kit. Know what you're going to do in the event of a cyclone. Are you going to evacuate, when do you evacuate, and again, heed those warnings.