What differentiates a hurricane from a superstorm is significant, but that difference might not matter to the people caught in either's path.
The term superstorm could cause confusion because there is no formal definition for it, according to meteorologists and guest columnists Marshall Shepherd and Ryan Maue in The Washington Post
Still, the superstorm term comes up often when severe weather conditions cause extensive damage and fatalities, leaving experts like Shepherd and Maue and others to feel the term has become "overused" to point of meaninglessness.
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The key difference being that a superstorm often refers to cold, nontropical weather while a hurricane occurs in warm, tropical conditions.
A hurricane has warm air present on all sides with rotating, spiral bands, according to WGN’s Chicago Weather Center.
Because of the circular winds, the hurricane includes a calm center called the eye. A superstorm doesn’t have those tropical features because it moves into cold air.
Superstorm Sandy that struck New Jersey in 2012 had been identified as a hurricane before it encountered cold air. The size of the storm caused tremendous damage even as it lost strength moving inland.
Sandy “no longer had a warm core, but rather took on the makeup of a traditional winter-style storm,” National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb told WFSA 12 NBC
in Montgomery, Alabama.
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Even though Sandy lost official hurricane status before it made landfall, the superstorm still caused 125 deaths and approximately $62 billion in damage, said WFSA 12 meterologist Al Conklin.
No hurricane watch or warning was issued north of North Carolina when the storm moved into colder Atlantic waters. Weather experts debate whether calling Sandy a hurricane or a superstorm as it made landfall did more harm than good.
However, as people affected by Superstorm Sandy can atest, the aftermath left from a hurricane or a superstorm can be equally devastating.
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