What is the Saffir-Simpson Scale?

You've certainly heard the term used before to -
Posted at 12:29 PM, Jul 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-30 12:29:59-04

Category 2 vs Category 4 hurricane? You’ve certainly heard the term used before to describe the strength of a storm, but do you know what these categories actually mean?

The categories we use to describe the strength of a hurricane is based off of the Saffir-Simpson scale. The scale was developed in 1971 by civil engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Bob Simpson.  The scale was then introduced to the general public in 1973. 

The scale separates hurricanes into 5 different categories based on sustained wind.  And anything above a category 3 is considered a major hurricane. 

Category 1 storms have wind speeds between 74 and 95 mph and usually cause no significant structural damage.  However, coastal flooding and pier damage can result from cat 1 storms.  As you go up in the scale, the wind speeds get increasingly faster. 

The highest classification in the scale, the category 5, is reserved for storms with winds 157 mph or higher.  These storms cause catastrophic damage- buildings destroyed and flooding widespread.  Many category 5 hurricanes, like Katrina and Andrew, go down in history.

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