Can you have a hurricane in California? - Answers

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Can you have a hurricane in California?

Map of America highlighting California and showing the region where Hurricanes hit

No, you cannot have a hurricane in California.

The United States has witnessed many hurricanes, which have caused massive devastation and loss of life; however, all of these hurricanes have pummeled the East & Gulf Coasts, and never directly impacted the West Coast where California is located. There are a couple of reasons as to why California is spared the misery of dealing with hurricanes…

The first reason can be attributed to the fact that the hurricanes are formed in the tropics. The general pattern of movement of hurricanes is from the east to west due to the rotation of the earth. So, hurricanes near the United States tend to move towards west-northwest, which means after its formation in the Atlantic Ocean, a hurricane will move towards mainland America. Meanwhile, in the northeast Pacific, the hurricanes head farther offshore. Thus, they do not move towards California on the West Coast.

Secondly, there is massive difference in the temperature of water along the East Coast and the West Coast. On the East Coast, waters are a bit warmer due to the Gulf Stream, while on the West Coast they are cool. On the East Coast, the temperature of the water exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.5 degrees Celsius) which is ideal to sustain a hurricane. Meanwhile, along the West Coast, the temperature of the ocean is usually under 70s F. Even in summers, the waters remain cool on the West Coast. This cool temperature is not sufficient enough for hurricanes to retain their strength on the West Coast, and hurricanes are considerably weakened when they arrive at California. Nevertheless, California may witness torrential rainfall.

While California has never been devastated by a hurricane, the state has had experiences with tropical storms, such as the 1939 California Tropical Storm, Kathleen in 1976 and Nora in 1997.

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