Hurricane Ratings Scale: Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

All hurricanes are potentially dangerous. Some are extreme storms while others can be outright devastating. The destructive intensity can be influenced by storm surge and wind speed. Hurricane ratings, predicting and comparing approaching hurricanes can be helpful for emergency preparedness. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration makes use of a disaster-potential scale for forecasting. It rates storms in five distinct categories.

Hurricane ratings scale: the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scaleThe Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Ratings Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a hurricane ratings scale that uses a storm’s current intensity to give a rating between one and five.

Herber Saffir,a consulting engineer, created the hurricane ratings scale in 1969 with Dr. Bob Simpson, director of the National Hurricane Center.

The major factor in the hurricane ratings scale is wind speed. Storm surges can be estimated but those values depend on varying ocean depths and slopes from land along coastlines.

IntensityDescription
Category
One
 74-95 mph winds  4-5 ft storm surge 
Possible damage to piers flooding of coastal roads. Buildings generally ok. Some destruction of mobile homes, shrubs and trees.
Category
Two
96-110 mph winds 6-8 ft storm surge
Some trees blown over. Much damage to mobile homes and piers and shrubs. Small water-craft break moorings. Coastal roads flood several hours before hurricane centre arrives.
Category
Three
111-130 mph winds9-12 ft storm surge
Damage to trees and shrub. Foliage blown off and trees knocked over. Some damage to homes. Mobile homes destroyed. Low lying roads cut off three to five hours before hurricane centre arrives.  Lands under five feet above sea level may be flooded inland over eight miles. Coastal flooding destroys small structures.Floating debris will damage larger structures. Residences along shoreline and in low-lying areas may need to be evacuated.
Category
Four
131-155 mph winds13-18 ft storm surge
Wall and roof collapses on small buildings. Trees, shrubs and signs blown over. Mobile homes destroyed. Low-lying roads will see rising waters three to five hours before the hurricane centre arrives. Lands lower than 10 feet above sea level flood. Residences may need evacuation up to six miles inland.
Category
Five
Over 155 mph winds8Over 18 ft  storm surge
Shrubs, trees and signs blown over. Total failure of roofs on many buildings. Some buildings  blown away. Doors and windows sustain major damage. Low-lying roads will see rising waters three to five hours before the hurricane centre arrives. Lands within 500 yards of shore lower than 15 feet above sea level flood. These will have major structural damage. Evacuation of residents on low-lying grounds within ten miles of shoreline could be necessary.