What exactly does it mean when meteorologists assign a category number to a hurricane? What factor decides just how severe a hurricane is? The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale breaks down the average wind speed within a hurricane into five categories. Categories 1 & 2 are considered minor storms while categories 3, 4 & 5 are considered major storms causing varying degrees of damage.

Category 1 (Minor)

  • Wind Speed: 74-95 mph; 119-153 km/h; 64-82 kt
  • Minimal Damage: Power outages, some damage to mobile homes and landscaping

Category 2 (Minor)

  • Wind Speed: 96-110 mph; 154-177 km/h; 83-95 kt
  • Widespread Damage: Power outages for several days, small structure damage, substantial mobile home damage, high rise window damage and roof material, window & door damage

Category 3 (Major)

  • Wind Speed: 111-129 mph; 178-208 km/h; 96-112 kt
  • Extensive Damage: Power outages for several days or weeks, structural damage to homes, minimal wall failure, mobile homes destroyed and uprooted trees.

Category 4 (Major)

  • Wind Speed: 130-156 mph; 209-251 km/h; 113-136 kt
  • Devastating Damage: Power outages for weeks, wall collapse and complete roof destruction

Category 5 (Major)

  • Wind Speed: >157 mph; >252 km/h; >137 kt
  • Catastrophic Damage: Power outages for weeks or months and building destruction

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