Hurricane Facts, Folklore and Superstitions Abound as Storm Season Looms
Forecasters and first responders are preparing for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season that begins on June 1 and ends on November 30, and some believe this year will be among the worst in recent history.
Senior Meteorologist David Dilley of Global Weather Oscillations, Inc., predicts the 2017 U.S. hurricane season will be the most dangerous and costly in 12 years. It will have 16 named storms (14 last year), eight hurricanes (6 last year), and four major hurricanes (three last year), he predicts.
The word hurricane is derived from the Mayan god "Huracan," who was the Mayans’ deity of wind, storms and fire, and from the Carib Indian god of evil, called "Huricán."
The term also arose from the Taino Indian word “Juracán,” which simply means hurricane in the Taíno language, which disappeared after Spanish conquistadors conquered the Caribbean and Florida.
Christopher Columbus made the first official hurricane report after he encountered a hurricane near Hispaniola in 1495. He later declared that "nothing but the service of God and the extension of the monarchy'' would induce him to face another one.
Hurricanes are nothing but dangerous – that is why myths and superstitions about them exist in folklore, particularly folklore from the American south. For example:
- Sailors believe that St. Elmo’s fire is a hurricane warning from Mother Nature. The spectacle occurs at sea when the air is heavily charged with static electricity. It manifests in small balls of fire on the tips of yard arms and spars.
- Before a hurricane hits coastal regions, dogs, cats and horses become restless and if not confined will run away.
- When a cow carries its tail upright, it is a sign of a coming hurricane.
- When sparrows hide under hedges or roof ledges, a hurricane is coming.
- When an alligator opens his jaws with an extra-long bellow, a hurricane is imminent.
- A bountiful citrus crop means no hurricanes will occur locally, but a bountiful mango crop means that a hurricane will occur locally.
- Always carry a red onion in your pocket during hurricane season and you will survive any bad storm.
- If you see a water spout in the ocean, wave a butcher knife back and forth and the spout will break up and no storm will occur.
- Migratory birds cross the Gulf of Mexico early in hurricane season. Birds wait for favorable winds and good weather before taking flight, so they won’t try to fly during a hurricane.
- If a migrant bird lands at a spot that has been devastated by storms, it will continue onward looking for better stopover areas.
- Weeds cut during hurricane season will stay gone, but not if cut at any other time of year.