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The 5 Hurricane Categories Explained

Hurricanes are an unfortunate reality for many coastal states. However, the term “hurricane” on its own isn’t sufficient to describe the storm. Hurricanes can range from particularly severe thunderstorms to truly devastating disasters. To give people an accurate idea of the potential damage that can result, weather organizations such as NOAA use a system of five categories to differentiate hurricanes.

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The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, also known as the scale of hurricane categories, uses wind speeds to determine the potential severity and damage of a developing hurricane. This provides an at-a-glance perspective for people hurrying to evacuate and for meteorologists trying to estimate the danger. But this scale isn’t a perfect predictor of damage. Hurricanes bring heavy rain, storm surges, and lightning as well as high winds. Don’t assume that a lower-category hurricane will implicitly do less damage–other factors at play could have the opposite effect.

1) Category 1

A category 1 hurricane is defined as a rotating storm with wind speeds between 74-96 miles per hour. Homes and businesses will suffer minor damage from wind and possible flooding, though reinforced glass windows are generally safe. The biggest risk of a category 1 hurricane is its ability to knock out the local power supply. Keep a generator handy or be ready to wait several days for the electricity to come back on.

Pro Tip: Some people choose not to evacuate from a category 1 hurricane. While you will likely be safe from a category 1 hurricane in a sturdy house with plenty of emergency supplies, anything worse than that warrants immediate evacuation.

2) Category 2

Category 2 hurricanes have wind speeds between 96-110 miles per hour. Hurricanes of this strength will definitely deal some damage to homes and businesses on a larger scale than a category 1. Low-lying areas will likely flood, and power outages can last for days or weeks depending on the extent of the damage.

3) Category 3

This is where things start to get really serious. A category 3 hurricane, considered a major hurricane, has wind speeds between 111-130 miles per hour. This type of hurricane can destroy small, weak buildings and can damage even sturdier structures. Victims may be without electricity or running water for weeks, and debris will likely block or damage roads.

4) Category 4

With wind speeds between 131-150 miles per hour, category 4 hurricanes are true catastrophes. Trees will be snapped in half. Homes can lose their roofs or exterior walls. Heavy flooding can render entire regions uninhabitable for weeks or months, placing local residents in serious danger. You will definitely experience total power loss and likely lose your access to running water for several weeks.

5) Category 5

A category 5 hurricane, the highest of the rankings, is also the most dangerous. With wind speeds over 155 miles per hour, category 5 hurricanes are capable of completely destroying your business, office building, or home. Severe inland flooding and the total destruction of local communities will render large areas uninhabitable for months.

Watch the Weather

Nobody likes to think about a devastating hurricane knocking out power and making neighborhoods uninhabitable for weeks. Unfortunately, summer and autumn in a coastal Texas region are prime time for hurricanes. Keep an eye on the weather and take note of the predicted hurricane categories. While it’s not a perfect indicator, it will give you an idea of what to expect.

Connect with us to learn more about dealing with a hurricane and its aftermath.

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