Saffir-Simpson Scale

Patricia Skinner  |  4/7/2005 4:56:00 AM

Hurricanes are divided into five categories to help recognize the threat they pose to structures and inhabitants of coastal and inland areas.

Note: Recent studies have shown that there is little correlation between the Saffir-Simpson category, which is based on wind-speed, and surge potential.

The Saffir-Simpson Scale

1-minute sustained wind speed 3-second gust wind speed

Category One Hurricane

No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage. 74-95 mph 96-124 mph

Category Two Hurricane

Some roofing material, door, and window damage of buildings. Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees (some blown down). Considerable damage to mobile homes, poorly constructed signs and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings. 96-110 mph 125-143 mph

Category Three Hurricane

Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Damage to shrubbery and tress with foliage blown off trees and large trees blown down. Mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before the arrival of the hurricane center. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by battering of floating debris. Terrain continuously lower than 5 ft above mean sea level may be flooded inland 8 miles (13 km) or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences with several blocks of the shoreline may be required. 111-130 mph 144-169 mph

Category Four Hurricane

More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failures on small residences. Shrubs, trees and all signs are blown down. Destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be cut by rising water 3-5 hours before the arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 6 miles (10 km). 131-155 mph 170-202 mph

Category Five Hurricane

Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees and signs blown down. Destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes cut off by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required. > 155 mph > 202 mph
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