The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which includes five categories based on the storm's sustained wind speeds. It also estimates possible damage to property, ranging from "some damage" to "catastrophic."begins on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. Hurricanes are rated on the
The 2023 seasonwith Hurricane Franklin, a Category 4 hurricane that did not make landfall but still led to "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions" along the U.S. East Coast. That was followed by which hit Florida's Gulf Coast as a major hurricane on Aug. 30, and then , churning in the Atlantic with wind speeds at times reaching as high as Category 5.
What is a "major hurricane?"
If a storm is a Category 3, 4 or 5, it is deemed 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.
What are the categories of hurricanes and what do they mean?
Here is how the scale breaks down, according to the National Hurricane Center, starting with a look at the most powerful:
Sustained wind speed of 157 mph or higher
- "Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months," the National Hurricane Center says.
- Notable storms: There are 39 Category 5 storms on record, including , the most destructive storm to ever hit Florida; Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 before surpassed Andrew as the costliest hurricane to ever when it made landfall there as a Category 4; and 1969's Camille, which brought a peak storm surge of 24 feet and killed more than 250 people after it made landfall in Mississippi.
Sustained wind speed of 130-156 mph
- "Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months."
- Notable storms: Hurricane Ida came ashore in Louisiana as a Category 4, where it caused severe flooding, knocked out power to more than a million people and spawned tornadoes as it moved northeast.
Sustained wind speed of 111-129 mph
- "Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes."
- Notable storms: The busy 2020 hurricane season saw late-season Hurricane Zeta strengthen to a Category 3 storm just before as a Category 2 storm; , which had achieved a peak of Category 5, was a Category 3 when the storm hit Florida.
Sustained wind speed of 96-110 mph
- "Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks."
- Notable storms: Hurricane Floyd made landfall North Carolina in 1999 as a Category 2 storm, causing widespread flooding as it
Sustained wind speed of 74-95 mph
- "Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days."
- Notable storms:
Should there be a Category 6?
In the midst of anstring of hurricanes in 2017, there was some speculation about whether storms could hit a Category 6. There is officially hurricane. But the idea of revising or adding to the scale has been who believe the current categories may not be adequate for increasingly in the future.
What category was Hurricane Katrina?
hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 as a Category X storm, ultimately flooding more than 80% of New Orleans and killing more than 1,200 people — making it one of the to strike the U.S. It is one of the , doing more than $75 billion in damage. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida all saw destruction from Katrina.
What category was Hurricane Ian?
Hurricane Ian was a strong Category 4 as iton Florida's west coast in 2022. The knocked out power to millions. Experts said the , thanks to warm sea temperatures — and warming seas are linked to climate change, which will likely not only make strong hurricanes occur more frequently, make storms move more slowly and allow them to hold more water, .
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