what are some signs that a hurricane is coming

What are some signs that a hurricane is coming? With various technologies and tools available, it has become a bit easier to predict a hurricane.

However, you do not always need to rely on those advanced technologies because some telltale signs of hurricanes are often enough to make predictions.

But, what exactly should you look for while looking for those signs? What are the signs that a storm is coming?

A change in atmospheric pressure, wind speed, the demeanor of the sea, and the formation and structure of clouds are some signs of a hurricane

More about Predicting a Hurricane

more about predicting a hurricane

All tropical cyclone predictions around North America are the responsibility of the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

It issues projections on the likely development of tropical storms within 48 hours.

It also gives information about other factors such as:

  • Intensity
  • Structure
  • Size
  • Rainfall
  • Storm surges
  • Tornadoes

When a tropical storm starts, NHC employees follow a protocol to produce forecast products and disseminate them every six hours

How is a Hurricane Forecasted?

how is a hurricane forecasted

The forecast process for a hurricane begins with the NHC considering available observations.

These observations are based on the data collected by various tools, including:

  • Reconnaissance aircraft
  • Satellites
  • Buoys
  • Ships
  • Radar

Satellites are the primary tool for taking remote measurements of a tropical cyclone’s intensity and track while it is out at sea.

Using satellite data, meteorologists make educated guesses about a storm’s size, center, and track over 6-12 hours.   

The Role of Satellites

the role of satellites

Geostationary (GOES) satellites in both the Atlantic and Pacific can keep an eye on storms round-the-clock as they develop and eventually fade away.

The United States Air Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) deploy hurricane aircraft, dropsondes, and ground stations to track an Atlantic hurricane as soon as it poses a threat to land. 

The Role of Land-Based Radars

Land-based radars give crucial precipitation and wind velocity data as the storm approaches within roughly 450km (280 mi) of the coast.

Automated Surface Observations Stations (ASOSs) and instrumented weather balloons (radiosondes) provide further measurements after the storm has made landfall.

Fact: There are other agencies like the NHC but they also follow similar procedures, though they often tailor them as per their needs.  

What are Some Signs That a Hurricane Is Coming?

signs of hurricane approaching

These days, there are scientific tools to help you get more information about an impending hurricane.

But, there are still other signs you can consider to get an idea about when a hurricane is coming.

Here is a bit more about 5 warning signs of a hurricane: 

Demeanor of the Sea

The behavior of the ocean is a reliable predictor of a hurricane’s arrival.

It is essential to keep an eye on the sea’s activity in order to gauge the intensity of an oncoming hurricane, including wave heights, frequency, and tidal behavior.

demeanor of the sea

It means that predicting the path and severity of a storm requires careful observation of the ocean’s surface and tide patterns.

There is usually a noticeable swell on the ocean surface three to four days before a storm reaches land.

Fact: The NASA Global Hawk, a huge unmanned aircraft, has also undergone testing for storm surveillance.    

Changes in the Waves

The height of the waves increases, from 3 to 6 feet.

The length of time between sets of waves decreases to roughly 6–9 seconds, and the swells become noticeable.

These alterations show that the storm’s effects have spread out into the open sea.

The waves on the water get bigger and more frequent as the hurricane approaches.

As the tide rises, the waves speed up and crash harder into the coast. The sea grows increasingly unsettled and choppy as the storm grows stronger. 

Changes in the Wind

changes in the wind

The seas get much more turbulent in the first twenty-four hours after a cyclone makes landfall.

As the storm’s winds pick more speed, the tide becomes exceptionally turbulent.

When winds pick up to roughly 34 miles per hour or higher, the ocean may become a roiling cauldron.

Strong gusts and choppy seas pose serious threats to coastal communities.

Fact: Simply observing a change in wind speed can help authorities alert the public and evacuate at-risk locations and protect coastal populations. 

Changes in Atmospheric Pressure

changes in atmospheric pressure

Atmospheric pressure and winds are also important in providing advance warning of an impending storm.

Keeping an eye on how these variables are shifting can provide you with important information about the storm’s potential severity and location.

There is little change in air pressure over the 72 hours before a hurricane makes landfall.

But there is a considerable decline in atmospheric pressure roughly 36 hours before landing. This drop in pressure is a key indicator of an approaching cyclone.

As the storm system approaches the afflicted area, it continues to become more intense and powerful. 

Changes in Wind Speed

changes in wind speed

The winds pick up speed as the cyclone approaches.

When a hurricane is only 12 hours distant, powerful winds become more evident.    

Strong winds can pick up and carry unsecured objects, posing a serious threat to people and buildings in their path.

Taking the appropriate measures to protect outdoor items and reduce the risk of damage is essential.

When a storm is within six hours of landfall, the winds can reach above ninety miles per hour.

These gusts can reach hurricane force, which is strong enough to topple trees, damage buildings, and dislodge large objects.   

An Important Consideration

Meteorologists and disaster management agencies can provide timely and accurate warnings to communities in the path of a storm by tracking changes in atmospheric pressure and wind patterns.   

The Sky and the Clouds

the sky and the clouds

When a storm is on its way, there are telltale signs in the sky and clouds as well. 

You will notice a change in how those clouds look and behave based on how close the hurricane is. 

Clouds About 72 Hours Before a Hurricane

Cumulus clouds start appearing about 72 hours before a hurricane makes landfall.

These clouds, which seem like cotton, are an indication of a turbulent atmosphere.

Their appearance indicates the potential for a storm to form in the next few days has increased. 

Clouds About 36 Hours Before a Hurricane

clouds about 36 hours before a hurricane

Around 36 hours before a hurricane makes landfall, cirrus clouds begin to appear in the sky.

Thin and wispy, these high-altitude clouds resemble fine strands of hair. An important indicator that a storm is on its way is the appearance of cirrus clouds.

In this case, authorities might compel people to leave their homes, especially those who live in low-lying locations that are susceptible to storm surges and floods

Clouds About 12 Hours Before a Hurricane

Intense bands of clouds dominate the sky about 12 hours before landfall.

These bands tend to be dark and foreboding, reaching far into the horizon. Their appearance heralds the arrival of storms with driving rain and strong winds.

Now is the time to start making plans for evacuation and emergency preparations, as the hurricane is drawing near. 

An Important Consideration

Individuals and communities can get advance notice of an oncoming hurricane by keeping a close eye on the sky and cloud patterns.

The timely preparations made possible by these visible indicators guarantee the safety and well-being of all in its path. 

The Intensity of Rain

the intensity of rain

In some cases, rain can indicate that a hurricane is on its way. The intensification of the rain as the hurricane nears land is a warning sign of things to come.

Deluges of this intensity and duration are typical during hurricanes and last until the storm passes.

Fact: The sky appears to unleash its liquid fury around 18 hours before the hurricane makes landfall, with torrential downpours. 

The Effects of Rain

Extreme flooding, especially in low-lying locations, is possible during this time of heavy rain.

Water levels can rise considerably with heavy rainfall, sometimes reaching heights of 15 feet or more.

the effects of rain

This causes widespread flooding in low-lying areas, which can destroy roads, houses, and other buildings.  

The relentless downpour should serve as a stark warning of the storm’s destructive potential.

As a result, it is even more critical that people in the hurricane’s path take precautions including stockpiling supplies and evacuating if they can. 


What are some signs that a hurricane is coming? There are many telltale signs that a hurricane is imminent, and many myths are often associated with it as well.

For instance, you may soon see a hurricane if you notice birds leaving the area.

This is not always true, but you can still consider a change in barometric pressure, wind speed, and the intensity of rain to predict a hurricane.