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Ultimate Guide to Identifying Hurricane & Storm Categories in Southwest Florida

by Duncan Seawall

Knowing the differences between hurricane categories is key for effective disaster readiness. This information is vital not just as data, but as a tool for safeguarding your home and taking proactive steps before hurricane season in Southwest Florida hits.


Related Blog: How to Prepare Your Boat in Case of a Hurricane in Sarasota, Florida


By familiarizing yourself with these categories, you're taking a responsible step towards minimizing damage and ensuring safety. Let's break down hurricane categories and what they mean for you.



What is a Tropical Storm?

Anything that is below category 1 (sustained winds of 74-95 mph) is not a hurricane, although it could eventually strengthen to a category 1. These types of storms are considered tropical storms or tropical depressions.



What Exactly is a Storm Surge?

Unlike hurricanes, storm surges don't have a season, they can be triggered by various weather events throughout the year, making them more unpredictable and dangerous. Storm surges can be identified by their towering waves, intense winds, and significant coastal flooding.


Buildings, roads, and bridges can be severely damaged or destroyed as water pushes miles inland, leaving a path of destruction.



How Hurricanes are Measured?: The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is an indispensable tool that categorizes hurricanes from 1 to 5 based on their wind speed, helping us understand the potential damage these storms can unleash. But, it's important to remember, the scale doesn't cover everything. 


This scale doesn’t account for other critical aspects like the storm's size, speed, and the amount of rainfall, all of which can significantly influence a hurricane's impact. 

Let's dive deeper into what each hurricane category looks like:



Hurricane Classifications: What to Expect

Hurricanes are powerful and destructive forces of nature, classified by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale based on wind speed. This guide breaks down what each hurricane category means and offers insights into how they can impact you.

  • Category 1 Hurricanes (Wind speeds of 74-95 mph): These can cause damage to roofs, trees, and power lines, potentially leading to power outages.
  • Category 2 Hurricanes (Wind speeds of 96-110 mph): Expect major roof and siding damage, numerous fallen trees, and likely power outages.
  • Category 3 Hurricanes (Wind speeds of 111-129 mph): These "major" hurricanes can remove roof parts, snap or uproot large trees, and likely result in loss of electricity and water.
  • Category 4 Hurricanes (Wind speeds of 130-156 mph): Can cause severe damage to well-built homes, making areas uninhabitable.
  • Category 5 Hurricanes (Wind speeds of 157 mph or higher): The most destructive, capable of leveling houses and causing total devastation.

Regardless of the size of the storm, you should always make sure you and your property are prepared for hurricane season. Download Duncan Seawall’s Hurricane Checklist to find out how to prepare your seawall, dock, boat, and more for the coming season.


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