Hurricane Categories

January 19, 2012 by staff 

Hurricane Categories, The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS), or the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS), classifies hurricanes – Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms – into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds. To be classified as a hurricane, a tropical cyclone must have maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph (33 m/s; 64 kn; 119 km/h) (Category 1). The highest classification in the scale, Category 5, is reserved for storms with winds exceeding 155 mph (69 m/s; 135 kn; 249 km/h).

The classifications can provide some indication of the potential damage and flooding a hurricane will cause upon landfall.

Officially, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used only to describe hurricanes forming in the Atlantic Ocean and northern Pacific Ocean east of the International Date Line. Other areas use different scales to label these storms, which are called “cyclones” or “typhoons”, depending on the area.

There is occasional criticism of the classifications as being too simple.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Category Wind speed Storm surge
(kn) ft
Five ≥ 156
(≥ 250)
(≥ 136) > 18
(> 5.5)
Four 131-155
(114-135) 13-18
Three 111-130
(96-113) 9-12
Two 96-110
(83-95) 6-8
One 74-95
(64-82) 4-5
Additional classifications
storm 39-73
(35-63) 0-3
depression 0-38
(0-34) 0

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