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Hurricane Categories

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale Includes Five Categories of Hurricane Size

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Warnings In Caribbean for Tropical Storm Chris
Handout / Handout/ Getty Images News/ Getty Images
Updated July 03, 2014
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is utilized to determine the relative strengths of hurricanes that may impact the United States coast. Since the 1990s, only wind speed has been used to categorize hurricanes.

Category One Hurricane

  • Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 74-95 miles per hour
  • Damage Category: Minimal
  • Approximate Pressure: Above 980 mb
  • Approximate Storm Surge: 3-5 feet
  • Examples: Hurricane Lili (2002) in Louisiana; Hurricane Gaston (2004) in South Carolina

Category Two Hurricane

  • Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 96-110 miles per hour
  • Damage Category: Moderate
  • Approximate Pressure: 979-965 mb
  • Approximate Storm Surge: 6-8 feet
  • Example: Hurricane Isabel (2003) in North Carolina

Category Three Hurricane

  • Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 111-129 miles per hour
  • Damage Category: Extensive
  • Approximate Pressure: 964-945 mb
  • Approximate Storm Surge: 9-12 feet
  • Examples: Hurricane Katrina (2005) in Louisiana; Hurricane Jeanne (2004) in Florida; Hurricane Ivan (2004) in Alabama

Category Four Hurricane

  • Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 130-156 miles per hour
  • Damage Category: Extreme
  • Approximate Pressure: 944-920 mb
  • Approximate Storm Surge: 13-18 feet
  • Example: Hurricane Charley (2004) in Florida; Hurricane Iniki (1992) in Hawaii; the Galveston Hurricane (1900) in Texas

Category Five Hurricane

  • Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 157 miles per hour and higher
  • Damage Category: Catastrophic
  • Approximate Pressure: Below 920 mb
  • Approximate Storm Surge: More than 18 feet
  • Examples: Only three Category 5 hurricanes have struck the United States since records began: The Labor Day Hurricane (1935) in the Florida Keyes, Hurricane Camille (1969) near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and Hurricane Andrew (1992) in Florida

There is no Category Six for hurricanes. While some have suggested such a category, since only three Category Five storms have struck the United States, Category Five would appear to be more than adequate.

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