Climate and Weather
How are hurricanes classified?
The Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Damage-Potential scale assigns numbers 1 through 5 to measure the disaster potential of a hurricane’s winds and its accompanying storm surge. The purpose of the scale, developed in 1971 by Herbert Saffir (1917–2007) and Robert Simpson (1912–), is to help disaster agencies gauge the potential significance of these storms in terms of assistance.
Minimal—No real damage to building structures. Some tree, shrubbery, and mobile home damage. Coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.
Moderate—Some roof, window, and door damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, and piers. Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood two to four hours before center of storm arrives. Small craft can break moorings in unprotected areas.
Extensive—Some structural damage to small or residential buildings. Mobile homes destroyed. Flooding near coast destroys structures and floods of homes 5 feet (1.5 meters) above sea level as far inland as 6 miles (9.5 kilometers).
Extreme—Extensive roof, window, and door damage. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore, and some roof failure on small residences. Complete beach erosion. Flooding of terrain 10 feet (3 meters) above sea level as far as 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) inland requiring massive residential evacuation.
Catastrophic—Complete roof failure to many buildings; some complete building failure, with small utility buildings blown away. Major damage to lower floors of all structures 19 feet (5.75 meters) above sea level located within 500 yards (547 meters) of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 kilometers) from shoreline may be required.