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However, this is not always possible. If the ship is found to be within the storm area, the proper action to take depends in part upon its position relative to the storm center and its direction of travel. It is customary to divide the circular area of the storm into two parts.
In the Northern Hemisphere, that part to the right of the storm track (facing in the direction toward which the storm is moving) is called the dangerous semicircle. It is considered dangerous because (1) the actual wind speed is greater than that due to the pressure gradient alone, since it is augmented by the forward motion of the storm, and (2) the direction of the wind and sea is such as to carry a vessel into the path of the storm (in the forward part of the semicircle).
The part to the left of the storm track is called the less dangerous semicircle,or navigable semicircle. In this part, the wind is decreased by the forward motion of the storm, and the wind blows vessels away from the storm track (in the forward part). Because of the greater wind speed in the dangerous semicircle, the seas are higher than in the less dangerous semicircle. In the Southern Hemisphere, the dangerous semicircle is to the left of the storm track, and the less dangerous semicircle is to the right of the storm track.
A plot of successive positions of the storm center should indicate the semicircle in which a vessel is located. However, if this is based upon weather bulletins, itmay not be a reliable guide because of the lag between the observations upon which the bulletin is based and the time of reception of the bulletin, with the ever present possibility of a change in the direction of the storm. The use of radar eliminates this lag at short range, but the return may not be a true indication of the center. Perhaps the most reliable guide is the wind. Within the cyclonic circulation, a wind shifting to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere indicates the vessel is probably in the dangerous semicircle. A steady wind shift opposite to this indicates the vessel is probably in the less dangerous semicircle.
However, if a vessel is underway, its own motion should be considered. If it is outrunning the stormor pulling rapidly toward one side (which is not difficult during the early stages of a storm, when its speed is low), the opposite effect occurs. This should usually be accompanied by a rise in atmospheric pressure, but if motion of the vessel is nearly along an isobar, this may not be a reliable indication. If in doubt, the safest action is usually to stop long enough to define the proper semicircle. The loss in time may be more than offset by the minimizing of the possibility of taking the wrong action, increasing the danger to the vessel. If the wind direction remains steady (for a vessel which is stopped), with increasing speed and falling barometer, the vessel is in or near the path of the storm. If it remains steady with decreasing speed and rising barometer, the vessel is near the storm track, behind the center.
The first action to take if the ship is within the cyclonic circulation is to determine the position of his vessel with respect to the storm center. While the vessel can still make considerable way through the water, a course should be selected to take it as far as possible from the center. If the vessel can move faster than the storm, it is a relatively simple matter to outrun the storm if sea room permits. But when the stormis faster, the solution is not as simple. In this case, the vessel, if ahead of the storm, will approach nearer to the center. The problem is to select a course that will produce the greatest possible minimum distance. This is best determined by means of a relative movement plot.
As a general rule, for a vessel in the Northern Hemisphere, safety lies in placing the wind on the starboard bow in the dangerous semicircle and on the starboard quarter in the less dangerous semicircle. If on the storm track ahead of the storm, the wind should be put about 160° on the starboard quarter until the vessel is well within the less dangerous semicircle, and the rule for that semicircle then nofollowed. In the Southern Hemisphere the same rules hold, but with respect to the port side. With a faster than average vessel, the wind can be brought a little farther aft in each case. However, as the speed of the storm increases along its track, the wind should be brought farther forward. If land interferes with what would otherwise be the best maneuver, the solution should be altered to fit the circumstances.
If the vessel is faster than the storm, it is possible to overtake it. In this case, the only action usually needed is to slow enough to let the storm pull ahead.
In all cases, one should be alert to changes in the direction of movement of the storm center, particularly in the area where the track normally curves toward the pole. If the storm maintains its direction and speed, the ship's course should be maintained as the wind shifts.
If it becomes necessary for a vessel to heave to, the characteristics of the vessel should be considered. A power vessel is concerned primarily with damage by direct action of the sea. A good general rule is to heave to with head to the sea in the dangerous semicircle, or stern to the sea in the less dangerous semicircle. This will result in greatest amount of headway away from the storm center, and least amount of leeway toward it. If a vessel handles better with the sea astern or on the quarter, it may be placed in this position in the less dangerous semicircle or in the rear half of the dangerous semicircle, but never in the forward half of the dangerous semicircle. It has been reported that when the wind reaches hurricane speed and the seas become confused, some ships ride out the storm best if the engines are stopped, and the vessel is left to seek its own position, or lie ahull. In this way, it is said, the ship rides with the storm instead of fighting against it.
In a sailing vessel attempting to avoid a storm center, one should steer courses as near as possible to those prescribed above for power vessels. However, if it becomes necessary for such a vessel to heave to, the wind is of greater concern than the sea. A good general rule always is to heave to on which ever tack permits the shifting wind to draw aft. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the starboard tack in the dangerous semicircle, and the port tack in the less dangerous semicircle. In the Southern Hemisphere these are reversed.
While each storm requires its own analysis, and frequent or continual resurvey of the situation, the general rules for a steamer may be summarized as nofollows:
Right or dangerous semicircle: Bring the wind on the starboard bow (045˚ relative), hold course and make as much way as possible. If necessary, heave to with head to the sea.
Left or less dangerous semicircle: Bring the wind on the starboard quarter (135° relative), hold course and make as much way as possible. If necessary, heave to with stern to the sea.
On storm track, ahead of center: Bring the wind 2 points on the starboard quarter (about 160° relative), hold course and make as much way as possible. When well within the less dangerous semicircle, maneuver as indicated above.
On storm track, behind center: Avoid the center by the best practicable course, keeping in mind the tendency of tropical cyclones to curve northward and eastward.
Left or dangerous semicircle: Bring the wind on the port bow (315° relative), hold course and make as much way as possible. If necessary, heave to with head to the sea.
Right or less dangerous semicircle: Bring the wind on the port quarter (225° relative), hold course and make as much way as possible. If necessary, heave to with stern to the sea.
On storm track, ahead of center: Bring the wind about 200° relative, hold course andmake as much way as possible. When well within the less dangerous semicircle, maneuver as indicated above.
On storm track, behind center: Avoid the center by the best practicable course, keeping in mind the tendency of tropical cyclones to curve southward and eastward.
It is possible, particularly in temperate latitudes after the storm has recurved, that the dangerous semicircle is the left one in the Northern Hemisphere (right one in the Southern Hemisphere). This can occur if a large high lies north of the storm and causes a tightening of the pressure gradient in the region.
The Typhoon Havens Handbook for the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans is published by the Naval Oceanographic and Atmospheric Research Lab (NOARL) Monterey, California, as an aid to captains and commanding officers of ships in evaluating a typhoon situation, and to assist them in deciding whether to sortie, to evade, to remain in port, or to head for the shelter of a specific harbor.