Tropical storms and hurricanes are extreme entities combining many thunderstorms into one giant rotating storm. The winds generated by these storms can be incredible and are strongest near the eyewall near the center of the storm.
Because of the circular track of the winds and the forward motion of a tropical storm or hurricane certain sections of storm can be stronger and more destructive than others when making landfall. You may have heard meteorologist talk about the right front quadrant hurricane being most dangerous, so let’s start there.
The right front quadrant is a region of onshore winds as opposed to the left front quadrant which is a region of offshore winds.
The right front quadrant of a landfalling hurricane brings stronger winds, storm surge and increased tornado possibilities and is generally the most devastating section of the storm.
The onshore winds of a tropical cyclone tend to be strongest for a couple of reasons. Onshore winds have less friction over water and blow faster than those blowing offshore which have more friction. The forward speed of the entire cyclone also adds to the speed of the winds in the right front quadrant. For faster moving hurricanes this can increase the winds substantially.
The onshore flow from a hurricane will also be sheared in the vertical because of interaction from the land. Winds at lower levels are slowed slightly while winds aloft will remain stronger. Onshore winds will also be turned toward lower pressure producing directional shear in the vertical as well. The higher shear environment in the right front quadrant will often translate rotation to thunderstorms and increases the likelihood of tornadoes in that area.
We certainly can’t discount the other three quadrants for their devastating power but that right front section of a tropical cyclone sometimes will pack a bigger punch.
Meteorologist Mike Morrison