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How Hurricanes are Categories

Hurricanes are classified on the basis of the intensity of their sustained winds. The Hurricane scale known as the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. This scale was started with the intention of communicating the forecast of strength of Hurricane better to the public.

Find below the table explaining wind speeds in different category of Hurricane. To be classified under Hurricane, wind speed should be minimum 74 mph. Wind speed below 74 comes under tropical storms.

CategoryWind speeds
Five≥70 m/s, ≥137 knotsCatastrophic damage will occur
≥157 mph, ≥252 km/hCamille (1969), Anita (1977), David (1979), Gilbert (1988), Andrew (1992), Dean (2007), and Felix (2007).
Four58-70 m/s, 113-136 knotsCatastrophic damage will occur
130-156 mph, 209-251 km/h1900 Galveston hurricane, Hazel (1954), Flora (1963), Cleo (1964), Madeline (1976), Frederic (1979), Joan (1988), Iniki (1992), Luis (1995), Charley (2004), Dennis (2005), Gustav (2008), Ike (2008) and Joaquin (2015)
Three50-58 m/s, 96-112 knotsDevastating damage will occur
111-129 mph, 178-208 km/hCarol (1954), Alma (1966), Celia (1970), Alicia (1983), Roxanne (1995), Fran (1996), Isidore (2002), Lane (2006), Karl (2010), Sandy (2012) and Otto (2016)
Two43-49 m/s, 83-95 knotsExtremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
96-110 mph, 154-177 km/hFifi (1974), Diana (1990), Erin (1995), Alma (1996), Juan (2003), Alex (2010), Tomas (2010), Carlotta (2012), Ernesto (2012), Richard (2012), and Arthur (2014)
One33-42 m/s, 64-82 knotsVery dangerous winds will produce some damage
74-95 mph, 119-153 km/hDanny (1985), Jerry (1989), Hernan (1996), Claudette (2003), Gaston (2004), Humberto (2007), Isaac (2012), Barbara (2013), Earl (2016), Hermine (2016) and Newton (2016)

Category 1 Hurricanes

Hurricanes are low pressure centered severe storms with a minimum wind speed of 74mph. This severe storm becomes a hurricane or a tropical cyclone depending on its place of origin. Hurricanes are further divided into five more categories depending on its intensity. The categorization of hurricanes is done on the basis of Saffir-Simpson Hurricane wind scale based on the strength of the storm. Bob Simpson, a meteorologists and Herbert Saffir, a civil engineer developed this scale in 1971.

Description of Category 1 Hurricanes

Category 1 hurricanes are dangerous and cause some damages, such as uprooting trees and bushes, damaging poles and power lines, causing power outages for several days. Even poorly attached roofs and unanchored mobile homes can be blown away with this category hurricane. This is the weakest hurricane but still has the intensity of causing damages. This storm can also cause some flooding. The category 1 hurricanes may have diameter of about 400 -500miles. The storm surges up to a height of 4 to 5 feet. The average wind speed is 74 to 95 mph and the central pressure is at least about 980 mb.

Preventive Measures for Category 1 Hurricane Damages

The damages caused by category 1 hurricanes can be minimized by taking some precautionary measures. Category 1 hurricanes generally bring high speed wind and heavy rain and resultant flooding, which can be controlled by planting more trees near the coasts. During high speed wind people in high rise buildings should take shelter in the lower floors. Proper hurricane alert warning in advance should be given to the affected areas. Besides, if necessary, evacuation plans should be made in advance. These are few of the steps if taken, can prevent huge damages by hurricanes.

Category 2 Hurricanes

Hurricanes are severe storms originating in the Caribbean region, Atlantic Ocean, or the Eastern Pacific region. Hurricanes are classified into different categories on the basis of their wind speed. The categorization of hurricanes is based on Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Saffir Simpson categorized the hurricanes on the basis of wind intensity.

Description Category 2 Hurricanes

Category 2 hurricanes appear with wind intensity of 96 to 110 mph. This hurricane is very dangerous and intensive and can cause huge property damages. It can cause major damages to mobile homes, damages to doors, windows, roofs of buildings, etc. In this category flooding in low-lying areas, power outages for few days to weeks are common, hence locals of hurricane prone areas are asked to store potable water in advance by authorities. This category of storm can blow away trees. The storm has minimum central Pressure of about 965 - 979 mbar.

Preventive Measures for Category 2 Hurricanes

The severe impact and fatalities due to strong hurricanes can be controlled by advanced information and planning. In the hurricane prone areas, an emergency kit and an advanced family communication plan is a must as most of the time during category 2 hurricanes power outages causes incommunicado. Trees and shrubs needs to be frequently trimmed to be more wind resistant and as floods and heavy rains are common sight of hurricane 2, elevated houses should be built in flood/ hurricane prone areas.

Category 3 Hurricanes

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind scale rating is commonly used to rate hurricanes from category 1 to category 5. This scale measures the potential property damage. The category 3 is one of the major hurricanes.

Descriptions of Category 3 Hurricanes

Category 3 Hurricane can cause devastating damage as it occurs with wind speed of 111 to 129 mph and 945 – 964 mbar of normal central pressure. This hurricane does structural damages to small buildings both residential and industrial. Even roofs of well built homes can be destroyed by these storms. Poorly built homes or mobiles home get severely affected. Trees gets uprooted, electricity and water lines get damaged leading to unavailability of both these basic facilities for many days. Heavy flooding along the coast is also a common sight of category 3 hurricanes, with the storm rising up to a height of 9 to 12 ft.

Preventive Measures of Category 3 Hurricanes

The preventive measure if taken timely can cause immense relief to the people of hurricane prone areas. Hurricane of category 3 appear with great wind speed, heavy rains, and flooding as a result it is very important that timely warning be given to the residents of the hurricane prone areas. People should evacuate the coastal areas on time before any potential hurricane. Also residents should stock their homes with potable water and food supply so that even if the water and electric line get damaged people are not out of food and water.

Category 4 Hurricane

Category 4 hurricane is one of the most devastating hurricanes rated on the basis of wind speed on Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Hurricane is a natural disaster, which when it happens at a higher speed, can cause a catastrophe.

Description of Category 4 Hurricane

Category 4 hurricane appears with wind speed as high as 130 to 156 mph. This hurricane can cause extensive damages. Mobile homes are completely destroyed. Structured, well built homes, buildings, shopping centers get partly destroyed or damaged by this hurricane. Trees gets uprooted, water and electric supply generally get disrupted for few weeks to months due to damages on the electric line, power poles and water pipe lines. The area becomes inhabitable for few months. This storm surges up to a height ranging from about 13 to 18 ft. The normal pressure of this hurricane ranges between 920 mbar to 944 mbar.

Preventive Measures for Category 4 Hurricanes:

History has shown that precautionary measures and timely warning can save devastating damages to happen from major hurricanes. For instances, early warning and storm watches helped many residents to prepare for strong wind and heavy rains in Bermuda, northeast Caribbean island, Newfoundland, and Europe due to hurricane Ophelia resulting in no fatalities and only minimal structural damages. Even roads, which were blocked due to flooding, were repaired on time due to advance preparedness, thus allowing residents to start normal life within couple of days of the hurricane.

Category 5 Hurricane

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane wind scale rating is based on the wind speed and not the impact of the hurricane. But high wind speed itself reveals the potential damaging capabilities of the hurricane. As per Saffir-Simpson Wind scale rating, category 5 hurricane is the most devastating and furious hurricane on the earth.

Description of Category 5 Hurricane

The category 5 hurricane appears with a wind speed of 157 mph and above. This is the most dangerous and devastating hurricane. Strong structured buildings can be destroyed by this high wind speed storm. The roofs of buildings and walls can fall down or get blown away. Complete destruction of mobile homes, severe damages to door and windows of well-built buildings are a common feature of this hurricane. Uprooted trees, power poles, damaged buildings, can completely cut off an area affected by category 5 hurricane. The storm surges above a height of 19 ft. with a lowest pressure less than 920 mbar.

Preventive Measures of Category 5 Hurricane

Hurricane Katrina was an eye opener for the whole world as many could not believe a country like USA could have done a civil engineering disaster as the surge protection failed in New Orleans killing many in that region and damaging many properties. Post this disaster, strong hurricane preventive measures have been undertaken in US and other hurricane prone countries.


Last Updated : March 23, 2017

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