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The Prime Differences Between Category 1-5 Hurricanes

Posted by Jimmy Hawley on Jun 7, 2022 9:10:00 AM

As a Floridian, you’ve seen headlines and heard about the various hurricane categories, but what really sets the numbers apart, and how does that impact your hurricane prep plans?

The National Hurricane Center established the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale which is used to rate a storm from 1 to 5 based on wind speed. 

While Category 1 and 2 storms are still considered dangerous to your home and family, the higher rated categories could do more damage. That’s why it’s important to prepare for hurricane season well ahead of time. Below, we’ll discuss the Saffir-Simpson Scale as well as looking at hurricane vs tropical storm differences and why you need to be prepared for anything that comes ashore.



Category Hurricanes 1-5 and Wind Speeds

Category 1 Hurricanes (Wind Speeds of 74 to 95 Mph)

Category 1 hurricanes are considered the least destructive on the scale. While they are the mildest classification of hurricanes, these storms produce sustained, strong winds that can damage your roof, side shingles, and more.

Those without hurricane impact windows, hurricane impact doors, and other hurricane protection products can experience cracked glass if violent debris is pelted at their home.


Category 2 Hurricanes (Wind Speeds of 96 to 100 Mph)

Category 2 hurricanes can produce winds from 96-110 mph and can cause grander scale damage than the first category.

Whereas a Category 1 can rip off a few shingles and throw around moderate size debris, a Category 2 storm can cause more sizable, substantial roof or siding damage — often ripping off large chunks of material that can require expensive repairs.

Shallow-rooted trees will almost certainly be uprooted or snapped, many of which can block roadways or slash power lines. With winds of this speed, power loss is pretty standard and can last several days or even weeks, according to the National Hurricane Center.



Category 3 Hurricanes (Wind Speeds of 111 to 129 Mph)

Category 3 hurricanes are considered “major” storms. At speeds this severe, you can expect significant damage to many homes and businesses.

Even well-built framed homes can see substantial damage to the roofing, stripping their roof decking. Roads will be littered with debris and many areas will be without electricity and power for days or weeks. Because of this, oftentimes evacuations pre-storm are advised.

According to Wikipedia’s records, Florida experienced three Category 3 hurricanes in 2004 alone. These included Hurricanes Ivan, Charley, and Jeanne, hitting Hutchinson Island, Cayo Costa, and Punta Gorda. Hurricane Ivan was the 9th most expensive hurricane at the time due to causing numerous tornados that ripped through homes.


Category 4 Hurricanes (Wind Speeds of 130 to 156 Mph)

While storm-safe windows and doors can save your family from dangerous broken glass, these winds— ranging from 130-156 mph— can toss debris quite harshly.  Any home, no matter your level of protection, can experience structural damage to its roof or walls against a Category 4 Hurricane.

This is another “major” type of hurricane, and evacuation is a must, as this storm can cause isolation to residential areas for days or weeks. Some homes can be so dramatically affected, that they are unlivable for months at a time.

The most recent Category 4 hurricane that touched Florida was Hurricane Irma in 2017. Because this hurricane crawled up the coast after slamming into the Florida Keys, it did nearly 50 billion in damage and is recorded as one of the deadliest.

Hurricane Forming


Category 5 Hurricanes (Wind Speeds of 157 Mph and Above)

While Category 5 hurricanes are rare, damage caused by these winds is often catastrophic. With velocities reaching 157 mph or higher, even the strongest-built homes are no match for this extreme force of nature.

Many homes will be destroyed and uninhabitable, and power outages can last many weeks or months. This was the case with Hurricane Michael, which made landfall near Tyndall Air Force Base in 2018.


Hurricanes VS Tropical Storms

Once a tropical depression develops a consistent wind speed of at least 39 mph, it is named and classified as a tropical storm. Aside from weaker sustained winds, there is no real difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane. However, tropical storms can still be very dangerous because they can cause severe flooding and gusts of wind strong enough to pelt debris at your home. 

Hurricane Watch vs Warning

If hurricane conditions are expected, a hurricane watch is announced 48 hours before a storm reaches tropical storm status. Similarly, a hurricane warning is announced 36 hours before the storm strengthens to the tropical storm level. This is to give affected areas time to prepare before the winds are too strong. 


Preparing for the Worst

Most hurricanes strike in Florida between August and October, making it critical to prepare before fall storms sweep in.

Do you have hurricane-safe, impact windows and doors to withstand various types of wind speeds? Learn more about protecting your home before the next big one. Download our free Hurricane Guide today.

Hurricane Guide

Topics: Tropical Storm, Storm Surge, Hurricane, Hurricane Maria

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