For a hurricane to be a hurricane, there’s gotta be a wind force of 12 on the Beaufort scale, which equates to 74 miles per hour. Of course, some are much, much stronger than that, like Hurricane Matthew, which is currently whipping through Haiti and Florida, and is spinning northward with a swath of floods, power outages and winds reaching 100 miles per hour. At its start, Hurricane Matthew was labeled Category 5, which can be deadly. But what does that mean in relative terms? Take a look through the following hurricane history to see the costs of damages from each category (one through five).
A tropical storm with winds of 39-73 mph will become a hurricane when it reaches 74 mph. These storms are usually not enough to take down buildings, but it will take down some trees and can injure both people and animals. Short-term power outages are likely due to snapped power lines from fallen branches. Hurricane Hanna of September 2008, which was a Category 1, did some damage.
A hurricane with winds from 96 to 110 mph becomes a Category 2. It can destroy some roofing material, doors and windows, as well as cause considerable damage to trees, street signs and the like. It’s also not uncommon for power to be out for days, if not weeks. Hurricane Nicole, which is happening right now, just strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane on Thursday. Hurricane Juan of 2003 (pictured) shows potential damages it may bring.
This is when things start to become major, with winds from 111 to 130 mph and some serious structural damage to homes. There’s also the risk of rising water three to five hours before the hurricane’s center arrives, which will cause additional wreckage—especially to terrain lower than five feet above sea level. Evacuation is often required, as water and electricity may become unavailable for several days to several weeks after it hits. Hurricane Sandy of 2012 is a prime example.
With 131 to 155 mph winds, you will see extensive structural damage, a complete destruction of mobile homes and major water damage to the lower floors of structures near the coast. Terrain lower than 10 feet above sea level may be flooded as far inland as six miles. Power outages can last up to a few months. This happened during Hurricane Iris in 2001.
When winds are greater than 155 mph, get ready for the most destructive level of hurricane. Both residential and industrial buildings will be wiped out, some completely. There will be water damage to all lower floors of structures located below 15 feet above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Typically, low-ground areas within five to 10 miles of the coastline will be evacuated. Most of the area will likely be uninhabitable for weeks or months on end. Hurricane Matthew, which is ongoing, has reached this level, as did Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 (pictured).
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