Understanding Hurricane Categories
Hey Belfast… here we are, deep into July and things are ‘heating up’ in the tropics.
This post is the latest in our ‘storm series’… in this series we are trying to give you great information about hurricanes so you are ready long before there is one in our mid-coast Maine forecast.
In case you missed it, here are our previous posts in the series. You can catch up here:
When you are watching a weather forecast on one of our great local stations and they report about a hurricane coming our way, it’s likely you’ll have two questions on your mind:
How bad is the storm?
What do I need to do to prepare?
To answer these questions we need to understand what our local meteorologists are telling us.
One of the most common tools we have for understanding the hurricane on our weather report is the five category hurricane scale. This is called the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.
Unsurprisingly, this scale breaks up hurricanes into categories based on wind speed (here measured in miles per hour or mph) and ignores other factors such as rain fall. This scale is used exclusively on hurricanes or tropical cyclones of the Atlantic Ocean.
It is important to note that the Saffir-Simpson scale measures the highest average wind over a one minute span of time. As such, it indicates the higher end of wind speed that you are likely to experience in the hurricane, rather than a true average wind speed.
So what is the breakdown?
Category 1 – Wind Speeds 74 to 95 mph
A storm of this first category is likely to cause minimal damage if your home or property. Blowing around unsecured items and snapping tree branches is probably the lion’s share of the damage to be experienced. However, these winds and the ensuing damage can often result in a loss of power. So it’s a good idea to have a generator and stock up accordingly.
Category 2 – Wind Speeds 96 to 110 mph
The increased wind speeds in this category will be where you can potentially start seeing increased levels of damage to your home and property. Damage can include significant roofing damage, roads can be blocked by downed trees and branches and power outages are pretty much a certainty. Along our Maine coastline the wind and waves created by the storm are generally strong enough to cause small boats to break from their moorings.
Category 3 – Wind Speeds 111 to 129 mph
It is at this point that hurricanes begin to be described as ‘major hurricanes’. Category 3 storms are likely to result in increased levels of damage to your home and property as well as a loss of power which is probably going to last for an extended period. If you live along the coastline, flood damage is almost a certainty.
Category 4 – Winds Speeds 130 to 156 mph
Category 4 storms have made up some of the deadliest and most dangerous disasters in the United States. Extensive and irreparable damage to your home is very likely. Entire structures can be completely destroyed during storms of this magnitude. The uprooting of tress, extended loss of power as well as coastal flooding is a given.
Category 5 – Wind Speeds Greater than 157 mph
This category is currently the highest possible rating on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. With a storm of this scale complete devastation of buildings and entire neighborhoods is almost a given. Areas affected by the storm will have no electricity or water for extended periods, perhaps several months or more. Emergency and other infrastructure related services will likely be non-existent, especially in the days immediately following the storm.
Prepare Ahead of the Storm
While understanding the Saffir-Simpson Scale can help you prepare the potential effects of a major storm that may it the mid-coast area, getting your plans in place ahead of time is key.