Howling wind drives torrential rain sideways as tall, slender palms bow and tree limbs snap. A hurricane approaches, its gale-force winds wreaking havoc as it nears the coast. Storm surges combine with the downpour, inundating the area with water.
But according to new research out of UC Santa Barbara, the rains that come once the storm has weakened may actually be more intense than when the storm is at its strongest.
“The highest intensities of rainfall occur after the hurricanes have weakened to tropical storms, not when they first make landfall as major hurricanes,” said lead author Danielle Touma, a postdoctoral scholar at the university’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. The study appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The finding has counterintuitive implications. “If we’re thinking about risks, we know that major hurricanes can drive storm surges, there’s strong winds and so on. But this paper is also saying hurricanes are still dangerous even after they’ve weakened to tropical storms,” said coauthor Samantha Stevenson, an assistant professor at Bren.