Today I really wanted to explore the hurricane category classification system and how it became the warning system that we use today. I really feel its interesting to see how the current scale describes and sizes up these hurricanes especially with Hurricane Irene still attacking the East Coast. Hurricanes have always been forces of destruction terrorizing coastal areas such as the Caribbean and parts of the coastal U.S. But it wasn’t until two scientists, Herb Saffir and Robert Simpson, decided that the old building codes structural engineers were using for determining the resistance of structures to wind related factors was out of date. Shockingly these building codes were unchanged since 1926! Basically costing the United States a lot of money just for not upgrading the codes. So they teamed up and designed this super effective and accurate category system that sums up hurricanes accordingly. Click here for info on the classification system.

The 5 Category System

  • Category One: Very dangerous winds will produce some damage. This category includes winds that are anywhere from 74 to 95 m.p.h.  Category one hurricanes have the ability to kill and maim animals and/or people.Not only can they kill your favorite pet, these hurricanes can completely destroy your mobile home or any building built before 1994!. Even swimming pools might suffer heavy casualties as this heavy hitting hurricane rips across your hometown.

Category one hurricane. Hurricane Francis doesn't look scary.

  • Category Two: Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage. So what’s worse than a category one hurricane? A category two. These bad boys traverse the coast at about 96-110 m.p.h.! That is a semi slow Lamborghini Gallardo! These hurricanes tend to kill slightly more people and animals but it probably isn’t as bad as a category three. Mobile homes are also much more likely to be uprooted and destroyed by these barbaric hurricanes (Can there really be civilized ones?) but post-1994 constructed homes can also be severely damaged in these disasters. Surprisingly during category two hurricanes is when filtration systems for viable water sources begin failing. Essentially in a category two much more things are being thrown around. 

This pic was taken 11 hours ago of Hurricane Irene, a category 2 hurricane. Click here to see more.

  • Category Three: Devastating damage will occur. This is where hurricanes really start making stronger negative impacts on livelihoods. With these hurricanes the average wind speed will be 111-130 m.p.h. That is mind boggling. Many people and animals will now be at high risk of death just from being within the hurricane. Newer homes might not be completely decimated but most likely will have roof and wall collapses. Even well constructed homes are going to suffer extensive destruction if they are still standing. Both electricity and water sources will be unusable for a number of weeks after this deadly type of hurricane passes.

This was taken from Hurricane Wilma. A category 3 hurricane. Notice the accuracy of the category descriptions.

  • Category Four: Catastrophic damage will occur. Speeds at this level of hurricane ferocity will hit averages of 131-155 m.p.h. These forces of nature will basically do what category threes do except on a category four scale. In other words apartment buildings will most likely have their rooftops ripped off and weeks after this hurricane passes broken glass and shattered windows will still pose threats to passerby and survivors of this calamity. Additionally, many trees are going to be completely uprooted and block off sections of the residential areas they use to line with their beauty along with destroyed telephone poles. Most of the affected area will be uninhabitable for months!!!

Hurricane Dean a category 4 hurricane. Notice the sinking boat towards the farther end of the picture.

  • Category Five: Catastrophic damage will occur. Basically category four and five hurricanes are very similar in their potential destructive power with the only difference being category fives are a bit more destructive since the rate of speed for these hurricanes need to be at an average higher than 155 m.p.h. This hurricane is what nightmares are made of. Regardless of being in your house or in a skyscraper, your chances of death are always high. This is because of the sheer force of moving debris and the speed of the winds themselves. Pretty much every mobile or bolted down building will be annihilated with the exception of a few apartment buildings. The area would be inhospitable for months.

Utter devastation. Category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Katrina.

I hope this descriptive listing of hurricane warnings has enlightened you and opened your eyes to just how devastating a hurricane can really be.  I really never knew how the government scaled hurricanes and on what basis they determined the category levels but after researching them for this post they have my respect that’s for sure. Hopefully Hurricane Irene starts dying down so we don’t see anything close to a category 3-5. Currently I believe it is a Category 2. For more information click here.

Have a GREAT Day!

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