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What’s the Difference Between Category 1-5 Hurricanes?

Posted by Jimmy Hawley on Mar 27, 2019 9:00:00 AM

You’ve seen headlines like “Category 3 Storm!” and heard about the various hurricane categories, but what really sets the numbers apart?

Hurricanes are rated on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, as established by the National Hurricane Center. These numbers/categories are rated on a scale of 1-5 based on a storm’s sustained wind speed.

While Category 1 and 2 storms are still considered dangerous to your home and family, it’s anything rated Category 3 or higher that you really need to prepare for. Here’s the Saffir-Simpson Scale explained, so you understand the difference between hurricane storm categories.


Category 1 Hurricanes

Category 1 hurricanes are considered the least destructive on the Wind Scale. While they are the most mild classification of hurricane, these storms can still produce sustained winds of 74-95 mph.

Wind speeds at this velocity are capable of causing damage to roofing, side shingles, vinyl siding or your gutters, by ripping off and scattering debris amongst your property.

Relatively large tree branches have been known to snap, and shallow-rooted trees can be uprooted and thrown about— both of which can cause power line damage and trigger neighborhood outages, or ruin personal property.

Those without hurricane-safe windows, doors or protective shutters can experience cracked glass if violent debris is pelted at your home.

Category 2 Hurricanes

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

Where as 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 sectioning 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 common, and can last several days or even weeks, according to the National Hurricane Center.


Category 3 Hurricanes

Category 3 hurricanes are considered “major” storms, reaching strong winds at anywhere from 111-129 mph. At speeds this severe, you can expect significant damage to many homes and businesses.

Even well-built framed homes can see substantial damage to 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.

Florida experienced three Category 3 hurricanes in 2004 alone, according to Wikipedia’s records. These included Hurricanes Ivan, Charley and Jeanne, hitting Hutchinson Island, Cayo Costa and Punta Gorda.

Category 4 Hurricanes

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 their 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, they are unlivable for months at a time.

Examples of recent Category 4 hurricanes that touched Florida were Hurricane Irma in 2017— hitting Cudjoe Key and Marco Island— and Hurricane Michael, which struck Mexico Beach in October of 2018.

Hurricane Forming

Category 5 Hurricanes

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.

Florida experienced a Category 5 storm in 1992— Hurricane Andrew. The first landfall hit Elliott Key and then affected Homestead. Fortunately, the state hadn’t fell victim to a storm of this magnitude since 1935, and hasn’t experience another since.

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? Here at Storm Solutions, we do.

Learn more about our impact windows and doors and protect your home, today.

Hurricane Guide

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