Tropical Cyclone HQ

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

Category 1 – 64-82 knots (74-95 mph; 119-153 km/h). Damage is limited to foliage, signage, unanchored boats and mobile homes. There is no significant damage to buildings. The main threat to life and property may be flooding from heavy rains.

Category 2 – 83-95 knots (96-110 mph; 154-177 km/h). Roof damage to buildings. Doors and windows damaged. Mobile homes severely damaged. Piers damaged by storm surge. Some trees blown down, more extensive limb damage.

Category 3 – 96-112 knots (111-129 mph; 178-208 km/h). Major Hurricane. Structural damage to some buildings. Mobile homes are completely destroyed. Roof damage is common. Storm surge begins to cause significant damage in beaches and harbors, with small buildings destroyed.

Category 4 – 113-136 knots (130-156 mph; 209-251 km/h). Structural failure of some buildings. Complete roof failures on many buildings. Extreme storm surge damage and flooding. Severe coastal erosion, with permanent changes to the coastal landscape not unheard of. Hurricane force winds extend well inland.

Category 5 – 137+ knots (157+ mph; 262+ km/h). Complete roof failure on most buildings. Many buildings destroyed, or structurally damaged beyond repair. Catastrophic storm surge damage. In the Northwest Pacific, a typhoon that reaches 150 mph (241 km/hr) is called a Super Typhoon.


Cat Knots MPH KM/H Damage

1 64-82 74-95 119-153 Minimal

2 83-95 96-110 154-177 Moderate

3 96-112 111-129 178-208 Extensive

4 113-136 130-156 209-251 Extreme

STY* 130+ 150+ 241+ Catastrophic

5 137+ 157+ 252+ Catastrophic

*Super Typhoon

A word on Storm Surge:

Historically, storm surge is the primary killer in hurricanes. The exact storm surge in any given area will be determined by how quickly the water depth increases offshore. In deep-water enviroments, such as the Hawaiian islands, storm surge will be enhanced by the rapidly decreasing ocean depth as the wind-driven surge approaches the coast. The peak storm surge is on the right-front quadrant (left-front in the Southern Hemisphere) of the eyewall at landfall, where on-shore winds are the strongest, and at the leading edge of the eyewall. Contrary to a popular myth, the storm surge is entirely wind-driven water—it is not caused by the low pressure of the eye. Another factor in the severity of the storm surge is tide. Obviously, an 18-foot storm surge at high tide is that much worse than an 18-foot surge at low tide.