Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson scale was changed to the Saffir-Simpson wind scale for the 2010 hurricane season. Storm surge was decoupled from the definintion of each category hurricane. It was decided that storm surge was not a good indicator of each category hurricane.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
Maximum Sustained Winds (mph) Damage
1 74-95 Very dangerous
2 96-110 Extremely dangerous
3 111-129 Devastating
4 130-156 Catastrophic
5 157+ Catastrophic

Category 1 Hurricane
  • Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 km/hr). 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. Hurricane Lili of 2002 made landfall on the Louisiana coast as a Category One hurricane. Hurricane Gaston of 2004 was a Category One hurricane that made landfall along the central South Carolina coast

Category 2 Hurricane
  • Winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt or 154-177 km/hr).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. Hurricane Frances of 2004 made landfall over the southern end of Hutchinson Island, Florida as a Category Two hurricane. Hurricane Isabel of 2003 made landfall near Drum Inlet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane.
Category 3 Hurricane
  • Winds 111-129 mph (96-112 kt or 178-208 km/hr).Well-built framed 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. Hurricanes Jeanne and Ivan of 2004 were Category Three hurricanes when they made landfall in Florida and in Alabama, respec

Category 4 Hurricane
  • Winds 130-156 mph (113-136 kt or 209-251 km/hr). Well-built framed 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. Hurricane Charley of 2004 was a category Four hurricane made landfall in Charlotte County, Florida with winds of 150 mph. Hurricane Dennis of 2005 struck the island of Cuba as a category Four hurricane.

Category 5 Hurricane
  • Winds 157 mph or greater (137 kt or 252 km/hr). A high percentage of framed 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. Only 3 Category Five Hurricanes have made landfall in the United States since records began: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille (1969), and Hurricane Andrew in August, 1992. The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane struck the Florida Keys with a minimum pressure of 892 mb--the lowest pressure ever observed in the United States. Hurricane Camille struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast causing a 25-foot storm surge, which inundated Pass Christian. Hurricane Andrew of 1992 made landfall over southern Miami-Dade County, Florida causing 26.5 billion dollars in losses. In addition, Hurricane Wilma of 2005 was a Category Five hurricane at peak intensity and is the strongest Atlantic tropical cyclone on record with a minimum pressure of 882 mb.
Explore more hurricane impacts here. Part of the hurricane descriptions are courtesy of the National Hurricane Center.