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Hurricane FAQ

What is the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale?

Answer. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used in public hurricane releases to classify hurricanes according to their potential for generating property damage and flooding in coastal areas. The following are the five classifications assigned to hurricanes and a discussion of each:

Category I: A Category One hurricane produces winds of 74 to 95 mph and/or a storm surge 4 to 5 feet above normal. No real damage to buildings is likely. Some damage may be expected to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage may be expected.

Category II: A Category Two hurricane produces winds of 96 to 110 mph and/or a storm surge 6 to 8 feet above normal. Buildings will receive some roof, door and window damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes and piers will occur. Coastal and low-lying escape routes likely will flood 2 to 4 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages will lose moorings.

Category III: A Category Three hurricane generates winds of 111 to 130 mph and/or a storm surge 9 to 12 feet above normal. Structural damage to residences and utility buildings will occur and mobile homes frequently are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys small structures and larger structures are damaged by floating debris. Terrain lower than 5 feet above sea level is flooded 8 or more miles inland.

Category IV: A Category Four hurricane produces winds of 131 to 155 mph and/or a storm surge 13 to 18 feet above normal. Extensive outside wall failure with complete roof failure on small residences will occur. Major erosions of beaches and major damage to the lower floors of buildings near the shore is likely. Terrain continuously lower than 10 feet above sea level may be flooded and evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 6 miles may be required.

Category V: A Category Five hurricane produces winds greater than 155 mph and/or a storm surge greater than 18 feet above normal. Complete roof failure will occur on many residences and industrial buildings and some complete destruction of small utility buildings can be expected. Major damage is likely to lower floors of structures located less than 15 feet above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 10 miles of the shoreline may be required.


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