Exploring the Intensity of Hurricanes, Cyclones and Typhoons

When categorizing hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons, there had to be a way to identify the different levels of intensity, in regards to damage and severity. Based upon the maximum wind speeds as well as storm surge, a hurricane scale was created, ranging from Level One (pretty weak) to Level Five (devastating). In this article, you will learn of the Staffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, as well as the various levels of intensity.


The Staffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale


The Staffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale was created to monitor and categorize the intensities of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones. When analyzing the intensity of these storms, meteorologists take a look at their maximum wind speeds, as well as the storm surge. A storm surge is the rush of water that comes onshore from a low-pressure storm, such as a tropical cyclone. Usually, it is the high winds of the storm that push the water further onshore.


While the Staffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used to categorize hurricanes affecting the United States, other places in the world use other means of rating their storms. For example, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology uses a similar 1-5 rating system, although instead of looking at maximum wind speeds, they base their categories on maximum wind gusts. So, a category 1 storm produces gusts less than 78 miles per hour, where a category 5 cyclone produces wind gusts at least 174 miles per hour.


Explanation of Hurricane Level Categories


Level One: Level One is considered pretty weak and will create the least amount of damage to trees, shrubs, as well as mobile residences. Storms within the Level One category will reach wind speeds between 74-95 miles per hour or 119-153 kilometers per hour. The storm surge will reach 4-5 feet.


Level Two: Level Two is considered moderate and causes noticeable damage to trees and mobile residences, as well as piers. This is the type of storm that will rip off shingles from roofs and cause further damage to the tops of houses. Level Two storms reach wind speeds between 96-110 miles per hour or 154-177 kilometers per hour. The storm surge reaches 6-8 feet.


Level Three: Level Three is considered strong and is known for blowing down trees or stripping the leaves from the branches. Mobile residences tend to become destroyed within these types of storms and damage to other types of building is not uncommon. Level Three storms reach wind speeds between 111-130 miles per hour or 178-209 kilometers per hour. The storm surge reaches 9-12 feet.


Level Four: Level Four is considered very strong with the ability to create extensive damage to houses, including windows, doors and roofs. When living close to the shore, the damage will be more devastating. The chances of flooding are high when this type of storm hits. Level Four storms reach wind speeds between 131-155 miles per hour or 210-250 kilometers per hour. The storm surge reaches 13-18 feet.


Level Five: Level Five is considered devastating where small buildings are overturned or blown away with the winds. The structural damage received by this category hurricane or storm is very severe, reaching wind speeds of 156+ miles per hour or 251+ kilometers per hour. The storm surge is 19+ feet. It is within this category that Hurricane Katrina was placed with maximum wind speeds of 175 miles per hour.