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The Saffir/Simpson Scale

August 7, 2002
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All hurricanes are dangerous, but some are more so than others. The way storm surge, wind and other factors combine determine a hurricane’s destructive power. To make comparisons easier — and to make the predicted hazards of approaching hurricanes clearer to emergency forces — hurricane forecasters use a disaster potential scale that assigns storms to five categories. Category 1 is a minimum hurricane, Category 5 is the worst case. The criteria for each are shown below.

The Saffir/Simpson scale was developed by Herbert Saffir, a Florida consulting engineer, and Dr. Robert Simpson, a veteran hurricane hunter. Dr. Simpson was also responsible for much of today’s technical information about hurricanes.

Wind Speed MPH/Knots Category Central Pressure: Milibars/Inches Damage
74-95/64-83 1 980+/28.94+ Minimal
96-110/84-96 2 965-979/28.50-28.93 Moderate
111-130/97-113 3 945-964/27.91-28.49 Extensive
131-155/114-135 4 920-944/27.17-27.90 Extreme
155+/135+ 5 920/-27.17 Catastrophic

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