What Determines the Categories of a Hurricane?
If you turn on the television there is one word that is assured to get your attention, especially if you live along the gulf coast. That word, is Hurricane. But if you are like most Houstonians you will not evacuate upon hearing about a Hurricane in the Gulf unless it has been ranked to at least a Category 3. It is true that Category 3 Hurricanes will cause extensive damage, but that does not mean Category 1 and 2 Hurricanes are any less dangerous. In fact, given certain circumstances, a Category 2 Hurricane can do as much damage as a Category 4. So why do we rank Hurricanes and how? The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale This is the official name of the scale used to categorize hurricane in the Pacific. Developed in 1971, this scale was developed by Herbert Saffir and Robert Simpson. To put it in the simplest terms, it ranks Hurricanes by their top recorded wind speeds. However wind is not the only thing that may cause damage. The amount of rain and the strength of the storm surge are not taken into effect. Hurricane Sandy, a category 3 storm, and Hurricane Wilma, a category 5 storm were both devastating to the regions they hit. Yet Hurricane Sandy caused, cost wise, more devastation coming in at 68.7 billion dollars. This was due to the massive amounts of water Sandy dropped that eventually caused widespread flooding which lingered for days vs Wilma who sped through America and quickly ripped buildings from the ground. The scale is not perfect, it is a general rule of thumb.
Wind speeds of 74-95 mph. Damage to building structures possible, primarily to unanchored older model mobile homes. Damage to poorly constructed signs, shrubbery, and trees. Loose outdoor items become projectiles. Numerous power outages.
Wind speeds of 96-110 mph. Widespread damage from very strong winds. Some roofing material, door, and window damage to buildings. Considerable damage to trees, vegetation, mobile homes, and piers. A number of high rise building glass windows dislodged to become projectiles. Widespread power outages up to several days.