Here’s when a tropical storm becomes a hurricane

Wind speeds determine a weather system’s designation

A hurricane blows in on a Florida beach. (Image by David Mark from Pixabay.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – From when a tropical disturbance becomes a tropical depression to a tropical storm to a hurricane, there are different criteria forecasters use to determine its designation.

Any storm system in the tropics is called a tropical cyclone, but there are different categorizations of tropical cyclones, based on wind speeds.

[RELATED: Track the tropics with the FREE News 6 Pinpoint Hurricane App | TRENDING: Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm and receives a name when the system reaches sustained wind speeds at least 39 mph.

From there, if it gains strength and increases in wind speed, it becomes a hurricane.

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Any low pressure system on earth is a cyclone. A low pressure system in the tropics is a tropical cyclone. Each ocean basin refers to the tropical cyclone as something different.

Here is what determines each category for a hurricane:

  • Category 1 -- 74 to 95 mph sustained winds
  • Category 2 -- 96 to 110 mph sustained winds
  • Category 3 -- 111 to 129 mph sustained winds
  • Category 4 -- 130 to 156 mph sustained winds
  • Category 5 -- 157 mph or higher sustained winds

[RELATED: ‘Every storm is different:’ Here’s why you should pay attention to more than just a storm’s category]

A hurricane is considered a major hurricane when it reaches Category 3 status.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.


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About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.