Have you ever wondered what exactly the forecasters mean when they say a hurricane is a Category 1 or Category 4? Hurricanes are classifed based on categories of intensity. These categories tell people what kind of damage the storm could cause.
A tropical storm officially becomes a hurricane once it reaches winds of 75mph or greater. Once this happens the hurricane is then given a category based on how powerful the winds are. The category also gives an idea as to how likely the damage will be for flooding and structural damage once the hurricane hits land. Hurricanes are measured on the "Saffir-Simpson" scale. The scale was named after the two men that came up with this way to measure hurricanes. Herbert Saffir was an engineer in Florida and Robert Simpson was the director of the National Hurricane Center from 1967 through 1973.
The scale has five categories which are:
A category one hurricane has winds ranging in speed from 75 to 95 mph. A category 1 hurricane usually causes some minor flooding and damage to trees and some structural damage to buildings.
Some category 1 hurricanes were: Hurricane Allison 1995, Hurricane Danny 1997, Hurricane Lili in 2002, Hurricane Gaston in 2004.
Category 2 storms have winds 96 to 110 mph. A Category 2 hurricane will cause some structural damage usually ripping tiles off roofs, damaging windows and causing tree damage and possibly knocking down power lines. Mobile homes also will usually see a great deal of damage done to the home. Minor flooding can be expected with a category 2 storm.
Some category 2 hurricanes were: Hurricane Kate in 1985, Hurricane Bob in 1991, Hurricane Bertha in 1996, Hurricane Isabel in 2003, Hurricane Frances in 2004.
Any hurricane that is a category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane.
A category 3 hurricane is a hurricane in which you should evacuate from your area and move to a area away from the hurricane. Category 3 hurricanes have winds of 111 to 130 mph. Category 3 hurricanes can cause tree damage, building damage and mobile homes could be destroyed.
Some category 3 hurricanes were: Hurricane Alicia in 1983, Hurricane Roxanne in 1995, Fran in 1996, Hurricane Jeanne and Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Category 4 hurricanes are powerful with winds of 131 to 155 mph. Category 4 hurricanes can cause damage to all types of buildings. Tree and sign damage can also be expected. Mobile homes will be destroyed. Flooding is usually severe with a category 4 storm.
Some category 4 hurricanes were: Hurricane Felix and Hurricane Opal both in 1995 Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Category 5 storms are the most powerful hurricanes on the earth. We are lucky that these hurricanes are rare and we have only had three category 5 hurricanes ever hit the United States. Category 5 storms have winds of 156 mph and over. Category 5 storms will cause heavy structural damage to most buildings and mobile homes will be destroyed. Trees and signs will be blown down. Category 5 hurricanes will also cause severe flooding with storm surges at 18 feet or higher.
The only 3 category 5 hurricanes to ever make landfall in the United States since the record keeping began are: Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 that hit the Florida Keys, Hurricane Camile in 1969, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Preparing For A Hurricane