What do the hurricane categories mean?

Category 3 hurricanes can mean no power for days, weeks

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

The hurricane wind speeds associated with the Saffir-Simpson Scale used by the National Hurricane Center.

It's important to know what different strength hurricane categories mean. These categories help people in Central Florida and others in the path of the storm know what to expect depending on the strength of a storm when it makes landfall.

The National Hurricane Center determines what a storm's category, between 1 and 5, based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which estimates potential property damage based on the storm's sustained wind speed. Hurricanes above a Category 3 are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for devastating damage, according to the NHC.

The Saffir-Simpson scale can give you an idea of the damage expected to your home and community, and how long it will take to restore power and other utilities.

When you hear a member of the News 6 meteorology team announce the category assigned to Hurricane Dorian, here is what the National Hurricane Center says that status will bring:

Category 1: 74 to 95 mph sustained winds

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.


Category 2: 96 to 110 mph sustained winds

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.

Category 3 (major hurricane): 111 to 129 mph sustained winds

Category 3 hurricane

Devastating damage will occur: Well-built frame 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.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in Louisiana as a Category 3 storm with winds near 127 mph killing 1,577 people in Louisiana, according to CNN.


Category 4 (major hurricane): 130 to 156 mph sustained winds

Category 4 hurricane

Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built frame 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.

When Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane in September 2017 it devastated the island. The exact death toll from Maria is still undetermined but the island government places the number of deaths above 2,900.


Category 5 (major hurricane):  157 mph or higher sustained winds

Category 5 hurricane

Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of frame 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.

Hurricane Michael became the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a Category 5 since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

Michael "produced devastating winds and storm surge and was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the U.S., " according to NOAA.

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