What are the categories of hurricanes and what do they mean?

The Saffir-Simpson Scale classifies hurricanes by maximum sustained winds. However, please keep in mind a storm may have stronger wind gusts.

Categories 1 through 5:

  1. Category 1: 74 to 95 MPH sustained wind speed 
  2. Category 2: 96 to 110 MPH sustained wind speed 
  3. Category 3: 111 to 129 MPH sustained wind speed 
  4. Category 4: 130 to 156 MPH sustained wind speed 
  5. Category 5: Over 157 MPH sustained wind speed 

These categories only highlight potential damage and impacts form the wind. This does not address other potential hurricane related impacts, such as storm surge, flooding, and tornadoes.

Please also be mindful to not classify a storm by “just a category X.” There are many variables which can affect the severity of a hurricane such as if it is arrives at high tide. Remember, many factors are in a hurricane equation and each storm and its potential damage is unique. It is always best to err on the side of safety than to take a cavalier attitude towards hurricanes and tropical storms. 


Show All Answers

1. What is the difference between a tropical storm watch and warning?
2. What are the categories of hurricanes and what do they mean?
3. What can I do to prepare for a storm?
4. Who has the authority to issue an evacuation order?
5. What are the evacuation routes?
6. Can I evacuate before an evacuation order?
7. What local agency leads during hurricane season?
8. What are the best sources of information during a storm?
9. What if I need a shelter during a storm?
10. What if I need transportation to a shelter?
11. What happens if I stay in town during a mandatory evacuation order?
12. What do I do if my house loses power?