We are in the middle of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, and meteorologists are monitoring the Atlantic and watching for the development of tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.   

When a hurricane forms, meteorologists give it a rating of Category 1 to Category 5 using the Saffir-Simpson Scale. For example, lately, you may have heard about Hurricane Fiona, which brought heavy rainfall and high winds to parts of Puerto Rico. The storm is a major hurricane and has reached Category 4 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. What is the Saffir-Simpson Scale, and what is the difference between Category 1 to Category 5 hurricanes?   

What is the Saffir-Simpson Scale?  

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a one to five rating based on a hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speed.   

The NHC has been using the scale since the 1970s, when engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson developed the scale to estimate potential property damage.   

This scale is based on wind speed and does not consider other potentially deadly hazards such as storm surge, flooding, and tornadoes.   

Hurricanes are rated Category 1 to Category 5

What wind speeds and types of damage are associated with category one to category five hurricanes?    

A Category 1 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 74-95 mph. With a Category 1 storm, dangerous winds will produce some damage. Examples of damage include damage to the roof, shingles, siding and gutters on well-constructed buildings; large branches of trees snapped and shallowly rooted trees toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles could result in power outages that could last a few to several days.   

A Category 2 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 96-110 mph. With a Category 2 storm, extremely dangerous winds will produce extensive damage. Types of damage from a Category 2 hurricane include major roof and siding damage to well-constructed homes, and many trees snapped and uprooted. Near-total power loss can be expected, with outages that could last several days to weeks.  

A Category 3 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 111-129 mph. With a Category 3 storm, devastating damage will occur. Types of damage from a Category 3 hurricane include major damage to well-constructed homes. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted and could block numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks.   

A Category 4 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 130-156 mph. With a Category 4 storm, catastrophic damage will occur. Examples of damage from a Category 4 storm include severe damage to well-built framed homes with loss of most of the roof structure and exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted; power poles will be down. Power outages will last weeks to months.   

A Category 5 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 157mph or higher. With a Category 5 storm, catastrophic damage will occur. Examples of damage from a Category 5 storm include many houses being destroyed with the loss of the roof and collapsed walls. Fallen trees and downed power lines will cause power outages.