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Weather Academy: Breaking Down the Hurricane Wind Scale

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 7:00 AM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) -Previously on the Weather Academy, Meteorologist Sheena Martin taught us all about hurricane formation. Today, we are going to talk about how hurricanes are categorized based on their strength.

Meteorologists use the Saffir-Simpson scale to determine the category of a hurricane. This scale was developed by Herbert Saffir, an engineer, and Robert Simpson, a meteorologist back in the 1970s. The scale is based on how fast the winds of a hurricane are circulating.

The Saffir Simpson scale ranges from Category 1 to Category 5.

The Saffir-Simpson Scale categorized hurricanes based on their wind speed.
The Saffir-Simpson Scale categorized hurricanes based on their wind speed.(KNOE)

In a category 1 storm, winds gusting anywhere from 74 to 95 MPH can cause damage to trees and roofs of homes. Hurricane Laura in 2020 was at category 1 strength when it moved through the ArkLaMiss.

At 96 MPH, you have a category 2 storm. Winds in a category two hurricane go up to 110 MPH, which is strong enough to break power lines causing widespread outages. Storm surge also becomes an issue with coastal communities as water is pushed inland, covering roadways.

Once a storm reaches category 3 strength, it is considered a Major Hurricane. Wind speeds range from 111 to 130 MPH. Deadly threat from flying debris and falling trees. These winds can cause extreme damage to mobile homes and structural damage to small buildings. Hurricane Zeta was the latest major hurricane to strike the United States and, in 2020 making landfall as a category three system.

Category 4 hurricanes have winds from 131 to 155 MPH. Hurricane Maria was at category 4 strength when it slammed into Puerto Rico in 2017. Strong winds will cause trees and power poles to be snapped or uprooted. Flooding will extend miles inland.

Storms producing 157+ are category 5 hurricanes. Some towns hit by Cat 5 hurricanes take years to recover — as was the case with Homestead, Florida, which suffered catastrophic devastation after Hurricane Michael hit in 2018.

Join us next week on the Weather Academy as we further explore hurricane strength by building our own hurricane-proof structures.

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