Knowing and understanding hurricane categories is an important part of hurricane safety, especially if you live in a part of the world that is prone to get hurricanes. Meteorologists and the National Weather Service use the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to determine the intensity of a storm.
The Basic Hurricane Categories
The first measuring you will notice when looking at hurricane categories is the wind speed. This indicates immediately that a category one hurricane is the least dangerous. Here is a listing of the wind speeds associated with each of the hurricane categories:
- Category one: 74 – 95 miles per hour
- Category two: 96 – 110 miles per hour
- Category three: 111 – 130 miles per hour
- Category four: 131 – 155 miles per hour
- Category five: over 155 miles per hour
As we can see from this list of the wind speeds, even a category one storm is quite dangerous. According to this scale, “some damage” occurs at category one, “extensive damage” occurs at category two, and “devastating damage” occurs at category three.
Categories four and five are are listed as being “catastrophic.” No matter the category of hurricane, follow our hurricane supplies checklist to make sure you can weather the storm.
What to Do in Cases of Each of the Hurricane Categories
Of course it is always best to evacuate if a hurricane is moving in, although evacuation is less of a requirement for categories one and two. In any event, it is important to take precautions like boarding up the home and business. Also you might even have to leave for an extended period of time after the storm passes through if power and electricity are not turned back on.
Examples of Storms in Various Hurricane Categories
Categories five hurricanes are extremely rare. In fact, only three of them have hit the United States in recorded history. Hurricane Camille, which struck Louisiana in 1969, was one of the three category five hurricanes. Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992, was another.
The third was the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935, which hit the Florida Keys. The National Weather Service did not start actually naming hurricanes until 1953, when hurricane names were only female. Male names were added to the hurricane naming system in 1979.
Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was also a category five storm briefly, although it weakened to become a category four and a category three storm each of the several times it made landfall. Hurricane Wilma made history as being the most intense storm ever to hit the Atlantic Ocean area, although it was a category three when it hit Florida.
Even Hurricane Katrina’s category was a bit misleading because it struck Louisiana as a category three storm. However, most of the damage there was caused to levees that failed and a massive storm surge that killed thousands of people.
The most important thing to realize is that hurricanes can cause extreme devastation and take lives no matter which category they are classified as. It is always better to evacuate ahead of a hurricane if possible.