Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

The United States uses the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale developed in 1969. Categories are used to predict how much damage to structures is to be expected, how much flooding, and what the storm surge will be. Neither rainfall nor location is taken into account. These categories are:

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Category One

Sustained winds: 7495 mph
Storm surge: 45 ft
Central pressure: 28.94 inHg; 980 mbars
Potential damage: No significant damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage.
Example storms: Hurricane Agnes (1972); Hurricane Danny (1997).

Category Two

Sustained winds: 96110 mph
Storm surge: 68 ft
Central Pressure: 28.5028.91 inHg; 965979 mbars
Potential damage: Some roofing material, door, and window damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, etc. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings may break their moorings.
Example storms: Hurricane Bob (1991); Hurricane Bonnie (1998).

Category Three

Sustained winds: 111130 mph
Storm surge: 912 ft
Central pressure: 27.9128.47 inHg; 945964 mbars
Potential damage: Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings, with a minor amount of curtainwall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
Example storms: Great New England Hurricane of 1938; Hurricane Fran (1996); Hurricane Rita (2005).

Category Four

Sustained winds: 131155 mph
Storm surge: 1318 ft
Central pressure: 27.1727.88 inHg; 920944 mbars
Potential damage: More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
Example storms: The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900; Hurricane Charley (2004); Hurricane Hugo (1989).

Category Five

Sustained winds: 156+ mph
Storm surge: 19+ ft
Central pressure: less than 27.17 inHg; less than 920 mbars
Potential damage: Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete structural 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.
Example storms: Hurricane Camille (1969); Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

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1938 Hurricane Along New England's Coast by Joseph Soares.
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Hurricane Hazel in the Carolinas by Jay Barnes.
Hurricane Hazel swept the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in mid-October 1954, eventually landing in the record books as one of the most deadly and enduring hur...

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