What does a “Category Five” hurricane mean?

Herbert Saffir (March 29, 1917 – November 21, 2007)

Robert Simpson (November 19, 1912 – December 18, 2014)

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed. The scale was conceptualized by Meteorologists Robert Simpson and Herbert Saffir and estimates potential property damage from hurricanes.

Category 1 and 2 storms are weaker classifications of hurricanes, but are still dangerous to those especially east of the center of circulation.

Hurricanes reaching category 3 stage are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage.  The same strength of storms in the Pacific, named Typhoons, are classified as "Super Typhoons" at this stage.

Within the early part of this century, storm surge/flash flooding has been added to the Saffir Simpson Scale due to the increasing vulnerability of coastal and low-lying areas due to storm surge.


Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.

Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.

Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.