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How are hurricanes graded?

Hurricanes are graded by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale as follows:

  • Tropical storm—winds 39-73 mph
  • Category 1 hurricane—winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt) No real damage to buildings. Damage to un-anchored mobile homes. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Some coastal flooding and minor pier damage. Examples: Irene 1999 and Allison 1995
  • Category 2 hurricane—winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt) Some damage to building roofs, doors and windows. Considerable damage to mobile homes. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings; may break their moorings. Some trees blown down. Examples: Bonnie 1998, Georges (Fla. & La.) 1998 and Gloria 1985
  • Category 3 hurricane—winds 111-130 mph (96-113 kt) Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings. Large trees blown down. Mobile homes and poorly built signs destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland. Examples: Katrina 2005, Keith 2000, Fran 1996 and Opal 1995
  • Category 4 hurricane—winds 131-155 mph (114-135 kt) More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland. Examples: Hugo 1989 and Donna 1960
  • Category 5 hurricane—winds 156 mph and up (135+ kt) Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required. Examples: Andrew (Fla.) 1992, Camille 1969 and Labor Day 1935

Regardless of the storm size, the most important thing is to keep you and your family safe!