Hurricane season officially starts on Sunday.
Tropical systems come in an array of shapes and sizes.
Tropical depression: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 miles per hour or less. Although these are much smaller than a tropical storm or hurricane, they can still cause damages, injuries, and even death because of flooding.
Tropical storm: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph.
Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or greater.
Tropical storms and hurricanes cause damaging winds, but they're also accompanied with a multitude of other hazards.
The most destructive and deadly part of a hurricane is the storm surge associated with it. Ocean waters rise ahead of a hurricane, and this can cause flooding to large swaths of coastal land.
Hurricane-force winds -- at least 74 mph - can easily destroy buildings and turn flying debris into deadly flying objects. In addition to the winds, hurricanes sometimes spawn small tornadoes away from the center of the hurricane.
Hurricanes, tropical storms and depressions all cause rain. The slower the storm moves, the more rain and area typically sees. This heavy rain often causes flooding and flash flooding. This is one threat that isn't just limited to people on the coast. People living inland can also experience the heavy rains of a tropical system.
Knowing the difference between these tropical systems can help you prepare for what’s headed your way no matter where you live.
Follow Storm Shield Meteorologist Jason Meyers via the Storm Shield app on twitter, @StormShieldApp and Facebook. Download the Storm Shield Weather Radio App for your iPhone or Android device and get severe weather alerts wherever you are.