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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Understanding Categories of Hurricanes: Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

7/12/2019 (Permalink)

Understanding Categories of Hurricanes

Have you ever heard of a hurricane referred to as a Cat 2 or Cat 5 and you were not sure exactly what that meant?  Not a problem, here at SERVPRO our goal is to help educate the public on extreme weather incidents and be ready for whatever happens to help restore cities and towns after extreme weather storms.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a scale used internationally for categorizing storms based on their wind speed.  Although hurricanes, especially the recent Hurricane Harvey out of the Gulf of Mexico, can be known for their wide spread flooding and large amounts of rainfall, most hurricanes are described as "wind events" where most of the damage caused is by the strong wind pressure that cane easily disrupt cities and towns of all sizes.

Here is how the category system works:

  • Category 1: Hurricane winds 74-95 mph - there is no real damage to building structures, damage can be isolated to primarily unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery and trees. 
  • Category 2: Hurricane winds 96-110 mph - some roofing material, door and window damage of buildings.  There may be considerable damage to landscaping and trees with some trees blown down.  
  • Category 3: Hurricane winds 111-129 mph - in many cases you will see structural damage to residential home and utility buildings with minor amounts of curtain wall failures.  It is likely that large trees will be blown down along with shrubbery and foliage blown off of trees.  Low-lying escape routes are cut off by rising water several hours before the arrival of the eye of the hurricane.  Most damage can be isolated to the coastline caused by rapid rising waters and storm surge.
  • Category 4: Hurricane winds 130-156 mph - more extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failures including wind removed shingles or tiles and even removal of small sections of roofing.  Mobile homes cannot stand up to Cat 4 winds and will be completely destructed. Cat 4 winds can also cause extensive damage to windows and doors.
  • Category 5: Hurricane winds greater than 156 mph - complete roof failure in many cases including residential, commercial and industrial buildings.  Potential complete building failures with buildings being blown over or blown away.  All shrubs, trees and signs blown down.  Severe to extensive damage to windows and doors.

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