Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30, and residents in a storm's path should become familiar with hurricane categories in order to better protect themselves.
The National Hurricane Center uses the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to measure a storm's strength and potential destruction. The scale analyzes a hurricane's wind speed and assigns it a 1 to 5 rating.
Tropical Storm — Winds 39-73 mph
A tropical cyclone with strong winds of over 39 miles (63 kilometers) per hour but less than hurricane intensity.
Category 1 Hurricane — Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt)
Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
- Examples: Irene 1999 and Allison 1995
Category 2 Hurricane — Winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt)
Well-constructed frame homes could receive major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected, with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
- Examples: Bonnie 1998, Georges (FL & LA) 1998 and Gloria 1985
Category 3 Hurricane — Winds 111-129 mph (96-112 kt)
Well-built frame homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
- Examples: Katrina (LA) 2005, Keith 2000, Fran 1996, Opal 1995, Alicia 1983 and Betsy 1965
Category 4 Hurricane — Winds 130-156 mph (113-136 kt)
Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
- Examples: Andrew (FL) 1992, Hugo 1989 and Donna 1960
Category 5 Hurricane — Winds 157 mph and up (137+ kt)
A high percentage of frame homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
- Examples: Camille 1969 and Labor Day storm 1935
STORM TERMINOLOGY (Source: CNN):
Eye: The center of the storm. If you are in the eye, you can see the stadium effect -- where the clouds stack up like a stadium. It is the calmest part of the storm. You can even see blue sky during the day and stars at night.
Eye wall: This is the most dangerous portion of the storm. This is the only area where you will find the winds that are the "strength" of the hurricane, or maximum winds.
Hurricane-force winds: Hurricane force winds weaken the farther you move away from the eye. In just a few miles you can drop a whole category.
Tropical storm-force winds: Tropical storm-force winds usually are felt throughout a large swath of a hurricane. But they don't stretch as far as the outer edge of the clouds. These winds are still dangerous but are not the worst of the storm.
Outer bands: These are bands that spiral out of the storm like a pinwheel with water on it. These lines of storms are where tornadoes typically form. It is also where flooding can occur. The bands can create a "training" effect where it just continues to rain in the same place, as we saw in Houston for days after Harvey.
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