CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Hurricane Idalia made landfall as a Category 3 Wednesday morning in Keaton Beach, Florida.

Hurricane Idalia continues to impact the southeast and this has led to the question of how hurricanes even form. Of course, the top ingredients are warm ocean temperatures, low wind shear, and warm moist air. Tropical systems develop close to the equator as there is warm air and warm ocean temperatures.

First, you need warm air that rapidly cools with height which creates instability and allows cloud tops to build and develop tropical thunderstorms and an area of low pressure. This system of thunderstorms spins and grows which is fed by the ocean’s heat and water evaporating from the surface.

As these clusters of thunderstorms get more organized and the central pressure of these storms drops, the first category for a tropical system is a tropical depression with winds under 39 mph. As these storms grow, a tropical storm produces with winds of 40 to 73 mph. As this area of low pressure deepens and grows, this rotating cluster of thunderstorms creates what we call an “eye” and is known as a hurricane.

The categories of hurricanes are:

  • Category 1: Winds 74-95 mph
  • Category 2: Winds 96-110 mph
  • Category 3: Winds 111-129 mph
  • Category 4: Winds 130-156 mph
  • Category 5: Winds 157+ mph

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Chris Bouzakis is a meteorologist who has been a part of the 22News team since 2021. Follow Chris on X @ChrisBouzakis and view his bio to see more of his work.