General Hurricane Information

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a rating system based on hurricane intensity. Within each category is a description of wind speed, storm surge, and estimated damages. Examples of each category are noted.

Category One Hurricane:
Winds 74-95 mph. Storm surge generally 4-5 feet above normal. No significant damage to permanent structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, limited coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.

Category Two Hurricane:
Winds 96-110 mph. Storm surge generally 6-8 feet above normal. Some roofing material, door, and window damage of buildings. Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees. Some trees blown down. Considerable damage to mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before the arrival of the hurricane center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.

Category Three Hurricane:
Winds 111-130 mph. Storm surge generally 9-12 feet above normal. Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Foliage blown off trees. Large trees blown down. Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed. Low-lying escape routes are covered by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain lower than 5 feet above mean sea level may be flooded 8 miles inland. Evacuation of low-lying residences with several blocks of the shoreline may be required.

Category Four Hurricane:
Winds 131-155 mph. Storm surge generally 13-18 feet above normal, more extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failures on small residences. Shrubs, trees, and all signs are blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be covered by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 10 feet above sea level may be flooded, requiring the massive evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 6 miles (10 km). Hurricane Luis of 1995 was a Category Four hurricane while moving over the Leeward Islands. Hurricanes Felix and Opal of 1995 also reached Category Four status at peak intensity.

Category Five Hurricane:
Winds greater than 155 mph. Storm surge generally greater than 18 feet. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 feet above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles of the shoreline may be required. Hurricane Gilbert of 1988 was a Category Five hurricane at peak intensity and is the strongest Atlantic tropical cyclone of record.