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What is the difference between Category 1-5 Hurricane?

If you happen to turn on the news during hurricane season and a storm is a-brewin’, there’s a good chance that one of the anchors will mention that a tropical storm has been upgraded and is now designated a Category Two, a Category Three storm, or heaven forbid a Category 5 storm. More than likely the mention of a Category 4 or 5 storm gives you flashbacks to Hurricane Andrew, Charley, or Irma, or any of the many storms that have battered the coast over the years. But what exactly is the difference between a tropical storm and a Category 2 or a Category 5 storm?

All hurricanes start as tropical cyclones, whipping up winds out in the Atlantic Ocean, usually accompanied by rain and storm surges. When a tropical storm gets big enough to attract attention, it’s usually a tropical depression given a number by the National Hurricane Center (NHC), which keeps tabs on them. Once its winds kick up to 39 miles per hour and sustain that speed for 10 minutes, it becomes a tropical storm, and the NHC gives it a name. If the storm keeps growing and eventually sustains winds of 74 mph, it graduates to being a fully-fledged Category 1 hurricane.

Determining Hurricane Categories

To determine which category a storm belongs in, meteorologists use the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which measures a hurricane’s strength based on sustained wind speed. The scale was originally developed by wind engineer Herb Saffir and meteorologist Bob Simpson in the mid-70s and has been used ever since to help alert the public so they can prepare for the possible impact of impending storms. The scale lays out the speed of the wind and the type of damage and impacts it can have.

According to the National Hurricane Center experts, the system divides storms into five categories.

Category 1: Winds 74 to 95 mph, usually producing minor damage, including trees and power lines.

Category 2: Winds 96 to 110 mph, resulting in extensive damage, uprooting trees, breaking windows, and snapping power lines.

Category 3: Winds 111 to 129 mph can lead to devastating damage to homes and trees and loss of power and water.

Category 4: Winds 130 to 156 mph leading to catastrophic damage to homes with winds strong enough to tear off roofs and walls. Can make areas uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Category 5: Winds 157 mph or higher, resulting in leveled homes, fallen trees, and downed power lines, potentially leading to months-long outages and devastated communities.

At Storm Smart, we’re Floridians too, and we know how important peace of mind is when there’s a hurricane headed our way. As the largest manufacturer and installer of hurricane screens, shutters, and panels, we can shield your home from storm damage so that you can enjoy your tropical lifestyle to the fullest. Our innovative products have helped protect the homes of more than 90,000 local homeowners since our founding in 1996. And they’re designed with your Florida lifestyle in mind by offering privacy and UV protection on bright and sunny days. Contact us today or visit our showroom in Fort Myers or Naples to learn how we can secure your home against the forces of nature.

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-Mary Ann H.