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What do the Hurricane Categories Mean?


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  • Storm damage from hurricanes can range from minor damage to major destruction. But with five categories routinely referenced each year during hurricane season, you may be wondering just what each category means, and the dangers associated with them. This article delves into the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale and details how SERVPRO® can be of assistance after a hurricane damages your property.

    Who Developed the Hurricane Categories?

    The Saffir-Simpson Scale was developed by engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson in the early 1970s to determine the effects of a hurricane’s sustained wind speed on a particular area. Simpson later added storm-surge levels to the categories. Additionally, low atmospheric pressure is related to hurricane strength.

    Importantly, all five categories can produce major damage, including intense flooding, tornadoes, loss of life, and more. Extreme caution and preparation should be taken before a hurricane makes landfall. Review our article about hurricane preparation for important tips and recommendations.

    Category 1 Hurricane

    According to researchers at the National Weather Service’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, during a Category 1 hurricane, wind speeds range from 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h).

    A Category 1 hurricane is classified as causing minimal damage, although wind is considerable in strength. Notable effects include:

    • Coastal flooding.
    • Pier damage.
    • Damage to loose, poorly designed, and/or unanchored signs.
    • Damage to unanchored mobile homes.
    • Power outages, which may last for several days.
    • Well-constructed frame homes suffering damage to siding, shingles, and gutters.
    • Snapped branches.
    • Uprooted or toppled trees with shallow roots.

    Category 2 Hurricane

    A Category 2 hurricane is classified as causing moderate damage. During a Category 2 hurricane, wind speeds range from 96-110 mph (154-177 km/h).

    Damage can include:

    • Major power loss that could last for days or even weeks.
    • Major roof and siding damage.
    • Snapped and/or uprooted trees, which may block roads.
    • Pier damage.
    • Significant damage to mobile homes.
    • Damage to roofs, doors, and/or windows.

    Category 3 Hurricane

    A Category 3 hurricane is classified as causing major damage. During this level of storm, wind speeds range from 111-129 mph (178-208 km/h).

    Damage can be extensive, and include:

    • Unavailable electricity and/or water for days or weeks.
    • Damaged roof decking and gable ends on well-built framed homes.
    • Snapped and/or uprooted trees, which may block roads.
    • Destroyed mobile homes and poorly built signs.
    • Inland flooding.
    • Significant damage to small residences, including utility buildings.
    • Destroyed small structures by the coast.
    • Large structures damaged by floating debris.

    Category 4 Hurricane

    A Category 4 hurricane is classified as causing extreme damage. During this level of storm, wind speeds range from 130-156 mph (209-251 km/h).

    Damage can include:

    • Power outages, which may last weeks or even months.
    • Snapped and uprooted trees.
      • An abundance of downed trees, which can isolate communities.
    • Downed power lines and poles.
    • Significant damage to non-bearing exterior walls and roof structure in well-framed homes.
    • Complete roof failure on small structures.
    • Significant eroding of beach areas.
    • Significant inland flooding.

    Category 5 Hurricane

    A Category 5 hurricane is classified as causing catastrophic damage. During this level of storm, wind speeds range from 157 mph or higher (252 km/h or higher).

    Damage can include:

    • Complete roof failure and wall collapse in well-framed homes.
    • Snapped and uprooted trees.
      • An abundance of downed trees may isolate communities.
    • Power failure for weeks to months.
    • Uninhabitable communities (which may last for months).
    • Blown over small structures.
      • They may be blown away entirely.
    • Major inland flooding.
      • This may include flooding or serious damage to the first several floors of a building.

    SERVPRO’s Hurricane and Natural Disaster Cleaning Services

    After a hurricane damages your home or business, you can always call on the professionals at SERVPRO. With over 2,100 franchises, there is a location near you prepared to handle all manner of damage from large to small. SERVPRO franchises have over five decades of experience across the system, with the staff, equipment, and techniques to restore your property.

    Additionally, SERVPRO offers commercial storm damage restoration, commercial construction services, and commercial large loss recovery. Because it is not just about restoring your home, but restoring your business or other property of any size in the aftermath of a hurricane.

    From hurricanes to extreme wind damage, from tornadoes to mudslides, and from earthquakes to blizzards and more, SERVPRO’s storm teams are ready to take on the task of rebuilding.

    SERVPRO is Prepared for Anything

    No matter what hurricane category strikes your home or business, you can rely on the professionals at SERVPRO. Whether you experience minimal damage after a Category 1 hurricane or find your home or business in need of extreme cleanup and reconstruction services after a Category 5 hurricane, SERVPRO is your one-stop shop for any damage restoration needs.

    With strategically placed large loss teams around the country, including SERVPRO’s Disaster Recovery Team®, each SERVPRO franchise has the local knowledge and know-how of a neighborhood cleanup company, but the resources and personnel of a national brand. From water damage cleanup to fire damage cleanup, mold remediation to biohazard cleanup and more, SERVPRO is Here to Help®. Find your local SERVPRO today and give us a call 24/7, 365 for round-the-clock service.  

    For more information, please visit our FAQ and Glossary.


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