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The Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (below), revised in early 2010, rates hurricanes forming in the Western Hemisphere on a 1 to 5 scale based on the intensity of their sustained winds. It describes the typical effects of each category. The scale is used to estimate potential flooding and property damage along coastal areas that are susceptible to hurricanes.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Category

Definition

Effects


One


Winds 74 to 95 mph

Some damage to building structures. Damage will occur to unanchored mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, loose outdoor/patio items, shrubbery, and uprooted trees. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.

Two

Winds 96 to 110 mph

Damage to roofing materials, doors, and windows. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, and piers. Windows are vulnerable to damage in high-rise buildings. Damage to power lines and poles will cause widespread power outages. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood two to four hours before arrival of storm's center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.

Three

Winds 111 to 130 mph

Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Total power loss is expected with outages that can last days or weeks. Terrain continuously lower than five feet above sea level may be flooded inland eight miles or more.

Four

Winds 131 to 155 mph

More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small buildings. Fallen trees may cut off residential streets. Power outages that lasts weeks. Major erosion of beach. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain continuously lower than 10 feet above sea level may be flooded, requiring massive evacuation of residential areas inland as far as six miles.

Five

Winds greater than 155 mph

Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or torn away. Destroyed mobile homes. Window and door damage on most buildings. Power outages can last for weeks if not months. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 feet above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within five to 10 miles of the shoreline may be required.

Hurricane watches and warnings

A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 48 hours. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 36 hours or less.

Source: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

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