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Ask Tom: Why was Hurricane Lane called a hurricane and not a typhoon?

Dear Tom,

I was told that hurricanes and typhoons are the same, except that hurricanes are in the Atlantic while typhoons are in the Pacific. Why was Lane, which affected Hawaii, a hurricane?

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— Larry Nazimek, Chicago

Dear Larry,

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The vast Pacific Ocean is host to both typhoons and hurricanes. North Pacific storms forming east of the international date line are hurricanes, and those forming to the west are typhoons. That is why both Hawaii storms, Lane and Hector, were called hurricanes. However, if a storm crosses the date line, it changes to or from a hurricane or typhoon. In 1994, when Hurricane John traveled west across the date line, it became Typhoon John. Eventually the storm recurved east and reclaimed its hurricane nomenclature before it finally dissipated in the Northeast Pacific.

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