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Hurricanes are powerful natural disasters that can cause significant damage to homes and businesses. They are categorized based on their wind speeds and the potential for storm surge, with categories ranging from 1 to 5.

Understanding the differences between each category can help property owners prepare for hurricane season and reduce their risks. In this article, we will explain the different categories of hurricanes and review the types of damage they may cause.

The Five Categories of Hurricanes

Hurricane categories are ranked from one to five, with one being the weakest and five the strongest.

Category 1

Category 1 hurricanes have wind speeds between 74 and 95 mph. These storms can damage roofs, gutters, and siding. They typically do not significantly damage well-built structures, but they can destroy unsecured or poorly built trailers. Buildings with poor or average construction may have windows blown out and experience partial wall and roof failure. Power outages are likely to occur, and storm surges may rise to 4 feet above normal levels.


Category 2

These hurricanes, with 96 to 110 mph wind speeds, can cause moderate damage to structures and may knock down trees, power lines, and power poles. Roofs, windows, and doors may be damaged; in high-rise office buildings, windows could be blown out. Weaker structures, including those with lightweight steel and aluminum coverings, may sustain significant damage. Airborne debris can cause further damage and injuries. The storm surges associated with category 2 hurricanes can reach up to 8 feet.


Category 3

These major hurricanes have 111 to 129 mph winds. These storms can significantly damage property, including roofs, walls, and foundations, especially in smaller buildings. Mobile homes, trailers, and weaker structures may be obliterated, and large trees may be uprooted. Even well-constructed buildings will suffer moderate to major damage. High-rise buildings could sway and lead to minor to moderate damage, and most of their windows will be blown out. Potable (drinking) water is likely to be hard to find if filtration systems fail. The storm surges from category 3 hurricanes often reach up to 12 feet.


Category 4

These strong storms have winds of 130 to 156 mph and can cause catastrophic damage to even the best-constructed manmade structures. Roofs and walls in commercial and industrial areas may be destroyed, and swaying may cause moderate damage to office buildings. Extensive damage is likely from airborne debris. Trees and power lines may be uprooted. Some areas may experience power outages for weeks or even months. Power outages and water shortages may last for days or even weeks. Category 4 storms can bring storm surges of up to 18 feet above normal levels.


Category 5

Category 5 hurricanes are the strongest storms, with wind speeds of 157 mph or higher. These storms can destroy entire buildings and make areas uninhabitable. Trees and power lines may be uprooted, and areas may be without power for weeks or even months. Most industrial buildings will not be functional, and concrete block low-rise buildings will sustain major damage. High-rise structures and apartment buildings may collapse. Winds may carry household appliances and even light vehicles. The storm surges that accompany category 5 hurricanes may rise to 20 feet.


Preparing for Hurricane Season

Regardless of a hurricane’s predicted strength, it is important to prepare as early as possible for the worst-case scenario. Here are some important preparation steps that businesses and property owners can take before hurricane season begins:

Understanding the differences between each storm category can help businesses and property owners prepare for hurricane season. If you own property in a coastal area at risk of substantial damage from hurricanes, contact the experienced team at ATI.


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