Saffir-Simpson Scale: How hurricanes are categorized

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 3:15 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Damaging wind, flooding rains, and storm surge are all likelihoods with a landfalling hurricane, but only one of those goes into the rating of a hurricane.

The Saffir-Simpson scale is used to rate hurricanes by category, one through five.

It is based solely on the hurricane’s sustained wind speed, and does not take into account rainfall, storm surge or flooding. Each category on the Saffir-Simpson scale estimates potential property damage.

A Category 1 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph, with three to four feet of storm surge, which is the wind pushing water inland. Damage is typically minimal, with trees being uprooted and siding being blown off homes.

A Category 2 has winds of 96 to 110 mph with five to eight feet of storm surge, causing moderate damage.

Extensive damage can be expected with a Category 3 hurricane, which is considered a major hurricane with winds of 111 to 130 mph. Storm surge of 9 to 12 feet can be expected with coastal flooding and major damage to homes.

Category 4 hurricanes of 131 to 155 mph winds with 12 to 18 feet of storm surge, causing homes along the coast to be flooded, and power outages that could last months.

Category 5 hurricanes cause catastrophic damage with winds at 155 miles per hour or greater, and storm surge greater than 18 feet.

Only four hurricanes have made landfall as a Category 5 -- the last one being Hurricane Michael in 2018.