Hurricane Category Definitions

Information from the National Hurricane Center
at the National Weather Service.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane's present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the category scale. Storm surge levels are also listed (a storm surge is the height waves can reach due to hurricane winds). Click on a category below to learn more about wind speed and storm surge levels.

  1. Category One
  2. Category Two
  3. Category Three
  4. Category Four
  5. Category Five

Category One Hurricane

  1. Sustained winds: 74-95 mph.
  2. Storm surge: 4-5 ft.
  3. Possible damage targets: unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees, minor pier damage.
  4. Flooding: Some coastal road flooding and.
  5. Past hurricanes: Hurricane Lili 2002, LA; Hurricane Gaston 2004, SC.

Category Two Hurricane

  1. Sustained winds: 96-110 mph.
  2. Storm surge: 6-8 feet.
  3. Possible damage targets: Roofs, doors, and windows; shrubbery and trees; mobile homes, signs, and piers.
  4. Flooding: Coastal and low-lying escape routes 2-4 hours before arrival of the hurricane center.
  5. Past hurricanes: Hurricane Frances 2004, FL; Hurricane Isabel 2003, NC.

Category Three Hurricane

  1. Sustained winds: 111-130 mph.
  2. Storm surge: 9-12 ft.
  3. Possible damage targets: Small residences and buildings; shrubbery and trees; mobile homes, signs, and piers.
  4. Flooding: Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane.
    • Flooding near the coast could destroy smaller structures.
    • Evacuation may be required.
  5. Past hurricanes: Hurricane Jeanne 2004, FL Ivan 2004 FL, AL Hurricane Bertha 2008, Bermuda .

Category Four Hurricane

  1. Sustained winds: 131-155 mph
  2. Storm surge: 13-18 ft.
  3. Possible damage targets: Residences and buildings; windows, roofs and doors; major damage to structures near the shore; shrubbery and trees; mobile homes, signs, and piers.
  4. Flooding: Low-lying escape routes may be flooded 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane. Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded.
    • Massive evacuation may be required.
  5. Past hurricanes: Hurricane Charley 2004, FL. Hurricane Ike 2008, FL, TX

Category Five Hurricane

  1. Sustained winds: 155 mph or more.
  2. Storm surge: 18 ft or more.
  3. Possible damage targets: All residences and industrial buildings; windows, roofs and doors; major damage to structures near the shore; shrubbery and trees; mobile homes, signs, and piers. Possible total destruction of all structures.
  4. Flooding: Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane.
    • Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded.
    • Massive evacuation may be required.
  5. Past hurricanes: Hurricane Andrew 1992, FL; Hurricane Katrina, 2005, FL, AL, MS, LA. Hurricane Rita, 2005, FL, TX, LA. Hurricane Dean 2007, Jamaica ; Hurricane Felix 2007, Nicaraqua

Updated 5/2009