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Hurricane Categories: Here’s What Hurricane Classifications Mean

Hurricane Ian quickly fortified to a powerful category 4 storm, passed category 5, while heading towards the west coast of Florida. Hurricanes are classified into Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which includes five categories based on the storm’s sustained wind speeds. It also estimates potential property damage, ranging from “some damage” to “catastrophic.”

If a storm is a category 3, 4 or 5, it’s considered a “major” hurricane due to the potential for “significant loss of life and damage,” the National Hurricane Center says. Hurricanes that fall into categories 1 or 2 are still considered dangerous, the center says.

Here’s how the scale breaks down, according to the National Hurricane Center:

Category 5 (major hurricane)

Sustained wind speed: 157 mph or more

  • Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of frame houses will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Downed trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks or possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Category 4 (major hurricane)

Sustained wind speed: 130-156mph

  • “Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-constructed frame homes can be severely damaged with the loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles knocked down. Downed trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks or possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Category 3 (major hurricane)

Sustained wind speed: 111-129mph

  • “Devastating damage will be done: Well-constructed framed homes can experience significant damage or removal of the roof deck and gable ends. Many trees will snap or be uprooted, blocking numerous paths. Electricity and water will not be available for several days or weeks after the storm passes.”

category 2

Sustained wind speed: 96-110mph

  • “Extremely dangerous winds will cause great damage: Well-built frame homes could experience significant roof and siding damage. Many trees with shallow roots will snap or uproot and block numerous paths. Near total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.”

Category 1

Sustained wind speed: 74-95mph

  • “Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-built frame homes may have damage to the roof, shingles, vinyl siding, and gutters. Large tree limbs will break and trees with shallow roots may be topped. Extensive damage to power lines and poles is likely to result in power outages that could last a few to several days.”

Should there be a category 6?

in the middle of a unusually fierce series of hurricanes in 2017, there was some speculation that the storms could reach a category 6. There is there is no such thing as a category 6 hurricane. But the idea of ​​revising or scaling up has been discussed by some climate scientists who believe that the current categories may not be suitable for increasingly extreme storms in the future.


This is an updated version of a story originally published on September 13, 2018.

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