Using The Saffir-Simpson Scale For Hurricane Classification

September 21, 2019

The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale is used for hurricane classification in the United States. It is used for classifying tropical storms and depressions. To be classified as a hurricane, tropical cyclones must have a wind speed of 74 mph. This scale uses five separate categories for identification. Each one indicates the extent of possible damages and flooding when a hurricane makes landfall. The Saffir-Simpson scale is only used for classifying hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is important to understand the five classifications and what they mean for people living in affected areas.

Category 1

This category implies that there will be dangerous winds and some damages. However, the damages are not typically of major structural significance. If mobile homes are not anchored, the storm could topple them. It could also snap or uproot small and weak trees. Shingles that are in poor repair will likely blow off. Pier damage and coastal flooding are both likely, and the flooding could last for several days. 

Category 2

If a storm earns this classification, it will yield strong winds and severe damages. Roof damage is likely, and weak doors or windows could be broken or blown away. Piers and signs that are not properly anchored could sustain major damages. Trees are often uprooted or snap in half. Even mobile homes that are properly anchored could be toppled, and power outages usually occur. Watercraft in unprotected anchorages could be damaged. Flooding may last for weeks or days.

Category 3

Any storm earning this category rating is considered a major hurricane. Structural damages to homes and businesses will likely occur. This is especially true of manufactured homes and buildings with wood structures, and nearly all piers in the storm's path will sustain some serious damages. Mobile homes are typically destroyed regardless of anchoring. Even the sturdiest of roofs may be peeled off. Smaller trees are snapped and uprooted whether they are strong or weak, and coastal flooding lasts for weeks.

Category 4

This category comes with extensive curtainwall failures, and some sturdy homes may sustain irreparable structural damages. Gas stations, canopies and other overhanging structures are usually destroyed. Mobile and manufactured homes are typically destroyed beyond repair or recognition. Only the largest and thickest healthy trees with deep roots survive this category of storm. Also, there is extensive beach erosion, and flooding may last for months or weeks. Electrical failures are widespread and usually also last for several weeks.

Category 5

This top category classifies storms that cause complete roof failures on even the strongest roofs. A storm in this category may peel off an entire steel roof. Entire homes and buildings with good structural support can be destroyed. Structures with no interior supports will collapse, and mobile homes are destroyed beyond recognition. Apartment buildings, condominiums and office buildings may survive if they are built soundly with hurricane safety glass and are located far enough inland. Multi-level concrete parking structures that are built up to current codes may also survive. Very few structures survive such a major impact.

It is important to understand and remember the basics of these categories when visiting or living along the coast. Even those who live 50 or 100 miles inland will see the effects of the storm. When hurricane season arrives, plan to start taking preventative measures. Review and update home insurance as necessary to include new items or to accommodate for changing needs. Follow weather forecasts, and be ready to act when storms are classified.


Contact Calibre to discuss hurricane protection and coverage.

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