Emergency Preparedness and Response: Hurricanes

Categories of Hurricanes

A hurricane is categorized by its ranking on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. This information about a hurricane’s ranking can help you understand how much the storm may damage your property or how much the storm is a threat to your health and safety. It is important to note that while this information will help you understand more about the severity of the storm, you should always follow all directives and special instructions from your local officials about storm updates, how to stay safe, and any potential evacuation orders.

According to the National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center, “The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based only on a hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speed. This scale does not take into account other potentially deadly hazards such as storm surge, rainfall flooding, and tornadoes.”

Note that every hurricane is different. There are countless factors that go into how you and your home, property, and other structures could experience a hurricane. In the event of a hurricane, always review what your local news and local officials are saying about the level of the storm and how it could impact you. Always follow all directives and special instructions from your local officials.

Housing is critical to ensure your safety during a hurricane. The table below can help you determine the level of property damage and respective threat to your safety that you can expect during a hurricane based on its category.


Category Sustained Winds Damage
1 74-95 m.p.h.
64-82 knots
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. Older mobile homes are at risk. Snapped power lines can result in power outages. Debris can harm people or animals. Some small trees may fall and cause mild damage to your home.
2 96-110 m.p.h.
83-95 knots
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage. Uprooted trees can cause property damage. If not in a safe space, there is a greater risk for physical harm from debris, along with the increased likelihood of power outages. Roofs and siding could be damaged.
3 111-129 m.p.h.
96-112 knots
Devastating damage will occur. Well-built homes, apartment complexes, and industrial buildings can experience significant damage. Uprooted trees can block roads and cause property damage. Greater risk of power outages, along with decreased access to clean drinking water. Can bring with it high levels of storm surges.
4 130-156 m.p.h.
113-136 knots
Catastrophic damage will occur. Well-built buildings can see intense structural damage. Mobile homes risk total destruction. Can make areas uninhabitable due to a lack of power and clean drinking water. Significant risk of physical harm from flying debris.
5 157+ m.p.h.
137+ knots
Catastrophic damage will occur. A storm this intense can cause total roof damage, blow out windows, and flatten some older homes.  Wood-framed structures may suffer significant damage. Coastal structures are at risk of flooding. Homes in the community may be without power and drinkable water for months.


It is important to consider this table to determine how a hurricane may impact your safety and where you are taking shelter.


Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
The National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s official resource on the Saffir-Simpson Scale including descriptions of the ratings and accompanying graphics. [url; NHC/CPHC]


Latest page update: October 13, 2022.