Hurricanes: Saffir-Simpson Scale

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The Saffir-Simpson Scale is used to classify hurricanes based on:

  • Intensity
  • Destruction potential
  • No longer includes expected storm surge (as of the 2009 hurricane season)


Intensity of a storm is based on its maximum sustained wind speed (taken as a 1-minute average) and matches up well with the destruction potential of the storm. Beginning in the 2009 hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) decided to omit the storm surge potential from each category because of its large variance based on other important factors besides wind speed. In addition, wind speed ranges were modified slightly in 2012 to resolve awkwardness associated with the conversions among the various wind speed units used in NHC advisory products.


Category 1
  • Winds of 74 to 95 mph (64 to 82 knots)
  • Limited wind damage to buildings
  • Damage to unanchored mobile homes
  • Large branches will snap, some trees uprooted
  • Loose outdoor items will become projectiles
  • Power outages with some downed power lines
Category 2
  • Winds of 96 to 110 mph (83 to 95 knots)
  • Some damage to roofs, doors and windows
  • Considerable damage to trees, shrubs and mobile homes
  • Some trees blown down
  • Widespread power outages, extensive damage to power lines
Category 3
  • Winds of 111 to 129 mph (96 to 112 knots)
  • Some structural damage to houses and buildings, minor wall failures
  • Mobile homes and signs are destroyed
  • Many high rise building windows become airborne
  • Near total loss of power, lasting several days to weeks
Category 4
  • Winds of 130 to 156 mph (113 to 136 knots)
  • Some wall failures and some roof failures on houses
  • Extensive damage to windows and doors
  • Numerous high rise building windows become airborne
  • Most trees will be snapped or uprooted, cutting off roads for days to weeks
  • Electricity will be out for weeks
Category 5
  • Winds of 157 mph or greater (137 knots or greater)
  • Complete roof failure on many homes and industrial buildings
  • Small buildings blown over or away
  • Severe and extensive window and door damage
  • Nearly all high rise windows dislodged
  • Nearly all trees snapped or uprooted and power lines downed
  • Electricity out for weeks to months

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