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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Hurricane Categories and the Damage Potential

By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff

For six months out of every year, residents along the US eastern seaboard are on high alert. From June through November, hurricane season arrives with any number of tropical depressions cropping up in the Atlantic Basin, some of which develop into full-blown hurricanes capable of inflicting severe damage to coastal and inland communities. Many communities, such as those in Florida or along the Gulf Coast, have been through this a time or two in the past and they know the drill.

For others, the preparation for a major storm's arrival may not be so easy. Take, for example, the northern communities who were on the receiving end of a one-two punch from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in the fall of 2011. Many of these communities were not used to dealing with this type of weather and, as a result, were left woefully unprepared for the storm's onslaught.

Categories (Classes) of Hurricanes

Knowing the strength of an impending hurricane, and the damage it is capable of inflicting, will help property owners prepare when the next storm has their community in its crosshairs. Here is what you can expect from each category of hurricane:

Category 1 - Sustained winds of 74-95 mph. Some damage is possible to mobile homes, trees, and crops. Wind gusts of up to 98 mph may be possible, along with coastal flooding and pier damage.

Category 2 - Sustained winds of 96-110 mph. Crops may be heavily damaged and significant damage caused to mobile homes and other buildings of similar construction. May cause power outages.

Category 3 - Sustained winds of 111-129 mph. Mobile homes destroyed, damage to roofs and other more permanent structures. Wind gusts up to 135 mph. Inland flooding may occur.

Category 4 - Sustained winds of 130-156 mph. Significant or severe damage to roofs and structures can occur. Wind gusts up to 174 mph. Extensive beach erosion and flooding far inland will occur.

Category 5 - Sustained winds in excess of 157 mph. Wide-ranging, severe destruction and major damage to lower floors of all coastal structures. May require total evacuation of all residential areas located in the storm's path.

After the severe wave of Category 4 and 5 storms that struck the US in 2005, several in the scientific and meteorological arenas toyed with the idea of creating a Category 6, classifying storms with winds greater than 180 mph. Several storms have been recorded at this strength level, although most have been in the West Pacific. The idea was eventually scrapped due to the fact that damage sustained by any wind above 157 mph will be serious no matter how well the structure is engineered.

Residents in hurricane-prone areas should pay attention to the category assigned to individual storms, since the strength of a storm dictates many of the procedures necessary to secure your property and protect the lives of your family.

Recommended Reading
Preparing for Hurricane Season
Be Ready for Hurricanes
Staying Safe During a Hurricane

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