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Hurricane facts & figures

A hurricane in the making

A hurricane can be up to 600 miles in diameter and can reach eight miles into the air. Warm water is the engine that creates and sustains the storm.

Water vapor, sucked upward around a tropical depression, creates heat energy when it condenses to form rain. The high-altitude heat triggers exaggerated updrafts, which suck up even more water vapor.

Once the chain is started, nothing but land and cooler water or high-altitude shearing winds can stop the fierce buildup. (See related story, "From these tiny islands come mighty storms")


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