Hurricane Category Guide

Hurricanes are notorious for the devastation and destruction they wreak. They are more than simple storms or tropical depressions, and are known for their intense winds and flooding that wreak havoc across the coast. Come hurricane season, the news seems to erupt with tales of the latest hurricane brewing in the open sea, what “category” it currently is, and what it will be when it makes landfall. But how exactly are hurricanes categorized? And what can you expect from, say, a Category 3 or 4 hurricane?

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

To answer our fist question, hurricanes are categorized not only by the damage they cause, but windspeed as well. These factors are part of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, which places hurricanes into “categories” based on their range of windspeed, and the magnitude of harm, such as flooding or structural damage. These categories range from 1 through 5, with 1 being the least damaging, and 5 being the most. The scale was first introduce to the public in 1973, and has since undergone minor changes, such as alterations to windspeed ranges, and the transformation of the scale into purely wind-based.

What are the Different Categories of Hurricanes?

Category 1

Windspeeds between 74-95 mph

Although the weakest of the categories, a Category 1 storm can still cause lasting power outages, flooding and damage to poorly made homes.

Category 2

Windspeeds between 96-110 mph

With windspeeds that can shatter windows and lift debris, a Category 2 contains winds that can damage manufactured and mobile homes alike.

Category 3

Windspeeds between 111-129 mph

A Category 3 can cause devastating, frequently irreparable damage to buildings and homes with weak foundations, particularly when they are located close to the coastline. Inland areas are typically flooded.

Category 4

Windspeeds between 130-156 mph

At this point you can expect to see extensive roof damage on most homes, if not complete collapse of the home itself. Floodwaters make their way across the terrain, and the shoreline is massively eroded by the sheer force of the wind and water.

Category 5

Windspeeds exceeding 157 mph

The deadliest of all hurricanes and the highest on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, there is no escaping destruction unless you live significantly inland and evacuation is almost always required. Roofs collapse, buildings are demolished, and anything left standing is flooded. The most damage can be seen on the coast, where structures have been cast out to see by storm surges that can strike several blocks inland.


Although hurricanes cause extensive and sometimes irreparable damage, they can be easily monitored and guarded against. Always be one step ahead of a hurricane by knowing when hurricane season is, and watching the news to keep track of developments in the ocean. Make sure your home is as structurally sound as possible, and have an evacuation route and shelter in mind if worst comes to worst. The more informed you are the better you will be able to defend yourself and your family against hurricanes.