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The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Forecasters classify hurricanes on a scale from 1 to 5, with Category 5 hurricanes being the most intense. Hurricanes that are Category 3 or stronger are referred to as major hurricanes. Below are the five categories of hurricanes, with their characteristics.

Category 1
  • Winds: 74-95 mph
  • Storm surge: 4-5 feet above normal
  • Damage: No significant damage to most buildings. Unanchored mobile homes may be tipped over. Trees and shrubs may be uprooted or damaged. Coastal areas may experience flooding, and piers may suffer minor damage.

Category 2
  • Winds: 96-110 mph
  • Storm surge: 6-8 feet above normal
  • Damage: Some damage to roofs, windows, and doors. Significant damage to mobile homes and poorly-constructed buildings. Trees, shrubs, and other plants suffer significant damage. Piers sustain considerable damage. Coastal areas and low-lying roads are flooded hours before the hurricane arrives.

Category 3
  • Winds: 111-130 mph
  • Storm surge: 9-12 feet above normal
  • Damage: Smaller homes and buildings may sustain structural damage. Mobile homes and and poorly-constructed buildings are destroyed. Trees, shrubs, and other plants suffer significant damage, and foliage is blown off. Piers sustain considerable damage. Flooding is considerable, and may extend inland for miles. Coastal flooding destroys smaller buildings, and large buildings may be damaged by the pounding of floating debris.

Category 4
  • Winds: 131-155 mph
  • Storm surge: 13-18 feet above normal
  • Damage: Extensive damage to many homes and buildings. Windows and doors sustain major damage. Mobile homes and and poorly-constructed buildings are leveled. Trees and shrubs are blown down. Piers sustain considerable damage. Flooding is extensive and causes major damage to coastal buildings.

Category 5
  • Winds: Above 155 mph
  • Storm surge: More than 18 feet above normal
  • Damage: Complete destruction of many homes and buildings, and catastrophic damage to many other structures. Mobile homes and and poorly-constructed buildings are leveled. Flooding and storm surge may destroy or severely damage buildings that are near the coast.

Other Categories

Despite their lower intensity, tropical storms and tropical depressions can have significant effects on Florida. Both categories of storms can bring strong rain and wind, and precipitation can collect in low-lying areas and cause minor flooding.

Tropical Storm
  • Winds: 39-73 mph
  • Storm surge: 0-3 feet above normal

Tropical Depression
  • Winds: 0-38 mph

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