A hurricane (in Asia most commonly called a typhoon - different from a monsoon or tsunami) is a large serious storm that only forms over warm water. It is characterized by very high winds, big waves and a storm surge. While water does not rise quite so much as in a tidal wave it can be whipped up by wind to go further inland than most tidal waves. Hurricanes are a major flood control challenge.
Hurricanes are ranked from category 1 to 5. A storm of lesser force than a hurricane is called a tropical storm. These are closely watched to see if they will develop into hurricanes, based on wind direction, water temperature and air temperature factors. A category 4 or 5 hurricane has historically been rare, and even in the Gulf of Mexico it was assigned only a 0.5% probability in any given year, before climate change and Gulf of Mexico warming effects led to repeated hurricanes in Florida and then to Hurricane Katrina. Today it is unclear how useful historical information is in predicting hurricanes. It may be impossible to predict frequency of hurricanes in latitudes further north. For instance, the category 3 Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia, very far north in the Gulf Stream, in 2002, and much later in the year (September 30) than any prior major hurricane in that region. It is postulated that the hurricane window in the North Atlantic may have as much as tripled from two weeks to six weeks, which also triples the probability of a major hurricane, from perhaps once every fifteen years to once every five or so.
While the time in which hurricanes can strike may not increase as much in more southerly waters, the probability that many will strike in one year seems to be increasing drastically. In Florida in 2004, four hurricanes hit in one year. This was unprecedented and overwhelmed the emergency response system.
Also, the absolute category of a hurricane does little to predict the damage it does: a category 2 hitting in a poorly defended urban area may do much more total life-and-money damage than a category 5 that hits an unpopulated coastline or sparse islands. Further, the shearing edge of the hurricane (where its total windspeed is a sum of its motion across water and its circular rotating motion) does damage equivalent to a tornado or the next level of hurricane up the scale.
Using satellite imaging, it is easy now to spot and warn of impending hurricanes, although it is no easier to deal with them.
In Cuba, over a million people can be, and have been, evacuated and put back in their homes, with no loss of life, in major hurricanes. It is therefore more a challenge of logistics and leadership than of materiel. In the USA, the FEMA supposedly takes charge of such activities. But according to much of the Hurricane Katrina commentary, US response lacked compared to Cuba's or even to that of poor countries hit by the Asian tsunami in December 2004.