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What is the difference between category 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes? What potential damage can they cause?

All hurricanes are equal, but some are more equal than others. Find out which ones cause the most damage.

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Hurricanes are classified into different categories based on their wind speeds and potential for damage. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is commonly used to categorise hurricanes from Category 1 to Category 5, with Category 1 being the least severe and Category 5 the most severe.

Here’s a breakdown of the categories and the damage they can wreak.

Category 1: 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h)

At their weakest, hurricanes cause some damage to roofs, siding, and trees. Small boats may be damaged or capsized. Storm surge typically 4-5 feet above normal.

Category 2: 96-110 mph (154-177 km/h)

More extensive damage to roofs, trees, and power lines comapred to Category 1. Storm surge typically 6-8 feet above normal.

This was the strength of Hurricane Idalia on Tuesday afternoon.

Category 3: 111-129 mph (178-208 km/h)

There is significant damage to homes, trees, and power lines. The storm surge will be 9-12 feet above normal with widespread coastal and low-lying area flooding.

Category 4: 130-156 mph (209-251 km/h)

Severe damage to well-built homes alongside the destruction of mobile homes, and significant damage to infrastructure. Storm surge typically 13-18 feet above normal. Severe coastal and low-lying area flooding will happen; the Big Bend is the area of Florida which will receive this type of battering.

Category 5: 157 mph (252 km/h) or higher

Catastrophic damage to buildings, infrastructure, and vegetation. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Storm surge typically greater than 18 feet above normal means severe and widespread coastal flooding.

One of the most infamous Category 5 hurricanes was Hurricane Katrina. It made landfall in Florida in this Category though it continued to cause incredible damage when it his Louisiana at Category 3; the design of the city and its flood defence system contributed to its damage potential.

What potential damage can they cause?

The damage potential of a hurricane is not solely determined by wind speed; factors like storm surge, rainfall, and the region’s vulnerability also play a significant role.

Higher category hurricanes not only have stronger winds but also bring more rainfall and generate larger storm surges, making them more destructive and dangerous.