The Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS) is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. The Weather Channel meteorologist Mark Elliot prepared a video titled “Why Hurricane Categories Make a Difference” and explained what each category means.

During a hurricane you usually hear meteorologists refer to its intensity by categories. If you don’t know the difference between a category 1 and a category 5 hurricane, The Weather Channel meteorologist Mark Elliot breaks it down for you.

According to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale, 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 156 mph (70 m/s; 136 kn; 251 km/h).

Category 1

Sustained winds: 74-95 mph/64-82 kn*/119-153 km/h

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.

Examples of landfalling storms at Category 1 intensity include, Danny (1985), Jerry (1989), Hernan (1996), Claudette (2003), Gaston (2004), Humberto (2007), Isaac (2012), Barbara (2013), Earl (2016), Hermine (2016) and Newton (2016).


Category 2

Sustained winds: 96-110 mph/83-95 kn/154-177 km/h

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.

Examples of landfalling storms of Category 3 intensity include Diana (1990), Erin (1995), Alma (1996), Ernesto (2012), and Arthur (2014).

Category 3

Sustained winds: 111-129 mph/96-112 kn/178-208 km/h

Devastating damage will occur. Well-constructed 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.

Examples of landfalling storms of Category 3 intensity include Carol (1954), Alma (1966), Celia (1970), Alicia (1983), Roxanne (1995), Fran (1996), Isidore (2002), Lane (2006), and Karl (2010).

Category 4

Sustained winds: 130-156 mph/113-136 kn/209-251 km/h

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.

Examples of landfalling storms of Category 4 intensity include the 1900 Galveston hurricane, the deadliest natural disaster to hit the United States with about 6,000 to 12,000 dead, peaked at an intensity that corresponds to a modern-day Category 4 storm. Other examples include Hazel (1954), Flora (1963), Cleo (1964), Madeline (1976), Frederic (1979), Joan (1988), Iniki (1992), Luis (1995), Charley (2004), Dennis (2005), Gustav (2008), Joaquin (2015) and Matthew (2016).

1900 Galveston Hurricane
The Great Galveston Hurricane was a Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 145 mph (233 km/h), which made landfall on September 8, 1900, in Galveston, Texas, in the United States, leaving about 6,000 to 12,000 dead. It was the deadliest hurricane in US history.

Category 5

Sustained winds: 157 mph or higher/137 kn or higher/252 km/h 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.

Historical examples of storms that made landfall at Category 5 status include Camille (1969), Anita (1977), David (1979), Gilbert (1988), Andrew (1992), Dean (2007), and Felix (2007). No Category 5 hurricane is known to have made landfall as such in the eastern Pacific basin.

Great Hurricane of 1780
The Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Huracán San Calixto, the Great Hurricane of the Antilles, and the 1780 Disaster, is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Between 20,000 and 22,000 people died throughout the Lesser Antilles when the storm passed through them from October 10–16. Specifics on the hurricane’s track and strength are unknown since the official Atlantic hurricane database only goes back to 1851. The hurricane struck Barbados with winds possibly exceeding 320 km/h (200 mph), before moving past Martinique, Saint Lucia, and Sint Eustatius; thousands of deaths were reported on the islands. Coming in the midst of the American Revolution, the storm caused heavy losses to British and French fleets contesting for control of the area. The hurricane later passed near Puerto Rico and over the eastern portion of Hispaniola. There, it caused heavy damage near the coastlines. It ultimately turned to the northeast and was last observed on October 20 southeast of Atlantic Canada. The hurricane was part of the disastrous 1780 Atlantic hurricane season, with two other deadly storms occurring in October. The death toll from the Great Hurricane alone exceeds that of many entire decades of Atlantic hurricanes. Estimates are marginally higher than for Hurricane Mitch, the second-deadliest Atlantic storm, for which figures are likely more accurate (nearly 11,000 people were killed with over 11,000 left missing by the end of 1998). Hurricane Mitch was the most powerful and destructive hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (290 km/h). Photo:


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