Why Hurricane Categories Make a Difference
Why Hurricane Categories Make a Difference
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During a hurricane you usually hear meteorologists refer to its intensity by categories. If you don't know the difference between a category 1 and a category 5 hurricane, The Weather Channel meteorologist Mark Elliot breaks it down for you.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based only on a hurricane's maximum sustained wind speed. This scale does not take into account other potentially deadly hazards such as storm surge, rainfall flooding, and tornadoes.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale estimates potential property damage. While all hurricanes produce life-threatening winds, hurricanes rated Category 3 and higher are known as major hurricanes*. Major hurricanes can cause devastating to catastrophic wind damage and significant loss of life simply due to the strength of their winds. Hurricanes of all categories can produce deadly storm surge, rain-induced floods, and tornadoes. These hazards require people to take protective action, including evacuating from areas vulnerable to storm surge.

*In the western North Pacific, the term "super typhoon" is used for tropical cyclones with sustained winds exceeding 150 mph.

Category Sustained Winds Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds
1 74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3
(major)
111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4
(major)
130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5
(major)
157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based only on a hurricane's maximum sustained wind speed. This scale does not take into account other potentially deadly hazards such as storm surge, rainfall flooding, and tornadoes.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale estimates potential property damage. While all hurricanes produce life-threatening winds, hurricanes rated Category 3 and higher are known as major hurricanes*. Major hurricanes can cause devastating to catastrophic wind damage and significant loss of life simply due to the strength of their winds. Hurricanes of all categories can produce deadly storm surge, rain-induced floods, and tornadoes. These hazards require people to take protective action, including evacuating from areas vulnerable to storm surge.

*In the western North Pacific, the term "super typhoon" is used for tropical cyclones with sustained winds exceeding 150 mph.

Category Sustained Winds Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds
1 74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3
(major)
111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4
(major)
130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5
(major)
157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

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