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Hurricane Categories Explained: What a different storm category means, how wind speed affects it

After a quiet start, the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is in full swing with Hurricane Ian heading towards the U.S.

Authorities said the storm was expected to make landfall on Florida’s west coast or its panhandle by noon Thursday.

Ian is expected to develop into a Category 3 hurricane by Monday night and is expected to develop into a Category 4 hurricane. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency, saying the storm situation “could easily represent a major disaster.”

How strong is a Category 3 or 4 hurricane? What does a completely different level mean for individuals within the storm’s path?

The Nationwide Climate Service uses the Saffir-Simpson scale, which measures the sustained wind speed of hurricanes using only a 1 to 5 scale. In response to the NWS, the scale gives estimates of potential property damage.

Category 1 hurricane

A Category 1 hurricane has winds between 74 and 95 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS said on its website that its “very harmful winds” would cause some damage to roofs, clapboards, vinyl siding and gutters.

“Huge shrub branches can snap off and shallow-rooted shrubs can fall,” the NWS said. “Severe damage to energy stress and utility poles appears to result in energy outages, whether for days or days.”

A pc image of Hurricane Danielle can be seen on this NOAA satellite TV.


Hurricane Danielle was the first Category 1 storm of the season.

Category 2 hurricane

Category 2 hurricanes have winds ranging from 96 to 110 mph. In response to the NWS, its “very harmful winds” could cause major damage to the roofs and side walls of well-built properties.

“Many shallow-rooted shrubs were snapped or uprooted, and roads were blocked. Near-total power outages are expected to last from days to weeks,” the NWS said.

Category 3-5 storms are considered major hurricanes.

MORE: How about a hurricane?

Category 3 hurricane

The Category 3 hurricane, with steady winds between 111 and 129 mph, “will cause devastating damage,” the NWS said.

“Beautifully built half-timbered homes can suffer major damage or have their roofs and gable ends removed. Many shrubs are snapped or uprooted, blocking quite a few roads. In the days to weeks after a storm, energy and Water may not be available,” the company said.


Salinas waterfront properties flooded after Hurricane Fiona hit Salinas, Puerto Rico, Monday, September 19, 2022.

AP Photo/Alejandro Granadillo

Category 4 hurricane

A Category 4 storm could cause “catastrophic damage” with winds of 130-156 mph. A Category 4 storm can cause extreme damage to well-built properties, while also damaging many roofs and exterior partitions.

“Most bushes were snapped or uprooted and energy poles were shot down. Fallen bushes and utility poles will isolate residential areas. Energy outages will last for weeks to possibly months at the site of a Category 4 storm.

Category 5 hurricane

Category 5 hurricanes are basically the most destructive, with sustained winds of at least 250 km/h.

“Too many frame houses were destroyed, roofs and walls completely collapsed. Fallen bushes and utility poles will isolate residential areas,” the NWS said. “Energy outages will last for weeks to possibly months. A lot of spaces could be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

The last Category 5 hurricane to hit the United States was Hurricane Michael, which made landfall in Florida in 2018.


On Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, firefighter Austin Schlarb conducts a house-to-house search on the Mexican coast in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

William Mansell and Karma Allen of ABC Information contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 ABC Information Web Ventures.

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