The National Hurricane Center tracks and forecasts future movements of hurricanes. The Saffir-Simpson scale was developed to classify hurricanes and provide an estimate of potential damage that could be caused. This scale has a 1 to 5 rating based on the hurricane's intensity at a specific time. Depending on the classification, estimates of property damage and flooding can be given an area along the coast in a landfalling hurricane. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, but the storm surge can often be the most damaging and deadly. The storm surge is the rapid rise in water levels above current tides during landfall that result from the winds of a hurricane. Widespread flooding of coastal areas usually due to the storm surge.
Here is a look at the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale:
Category One Hurricane:
Winds are 74-95 miles per hour with a storm surge of 4-5 feet above normal tides. Damage is likely to occur to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Minor damage can occur to poorly constructed signs. Coastal road flooding will occur.
Category Two Hurricane:
Winds are 96-110 miles per hour with a storm surge of 6-8 feet. Roofing material, door and window damagebegins to occur to buildings. Small to medium size trees are blown down and shrubbery destroyed. Significant damage occurs to mobile homes and signs. Coastal roads and low lying evacuations routes flood 2-4 hours before the hurricane eye or center of the storm amkes landfall.
Category Three Hurricane:
Winds are 111-130 miles per hour with a storm surge of 9-12 feet. Structural damages starts to small residences and utility buildings. Foliage blown off all trees with some large trees blown down. Mobile homes and sign completely destroyed. Coastal roads and low lying evacuation routes are cut off by rising water 3-5 hours before the eye arrives. Flooding can destory smaller coaster structures with larger structures damage by battering of debris. Flooding of low lying areas can stretch as far as 8 miles inland.
Category Four Hurricane:
Winds are 135-155 miles per hour with a storm surge of 13-18 feet. Wall collapses begin and complete roof structure failure occurs on small residences. Extensive damage to windows and doors on ll structures. Shrubs, trees and signs blown down. Flooding can cause major damage to foundations and lower floors near the shore. Areas less than 10 feet above sea level are flooded resulting in massive evacuations of residential areas up to 6 miles inland.
Category Five Hurricane:
Winds are greater than 155 miles per hour with storm surge over 18 feet. Complete roof failure occurs on residences and industrial buildings. Small to medium structures completely blown over with extensive damage to doors, windows and roofs on large structures. Major damage occurs from flooding in any area that is 15 feet or less above sea level. This requires massive evacuations residential areas within 10 miles of the shoreline.