What Is a Major Hurricane

Hurricane Isaac
Hurricane Isaac | Source

What is the difference between a major hurricane and other weather nasties like a tropical storm or tornado? The answer to that question can make a difference in how you might prepare for one.

Major hurricanes are among the strongest of storms and it's generally a bad idea to be in the way of one. That might mean learning more about what the meteorologists mean when they classify a hurricane as a major one.

The Saffir-Simpson Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Scale is a measurement of the strength of a hurricane. Categories 3, 4, and 5 are considered major hurricanes.

  • Category 1 Hurricane: Sustained wind speeds are between 74 and 95 mph (119-153 km/h). It can cause damage to the roofs, vinyl siding and gutters of well-constructed homes, knock out power lines, knock down branches and uproot narrowly rooted trees.
  • Category 2 Hurricane: Sustained wind speeds are between 96 and 110 mph (154-177 km/h). Well-constructed homes may suffer more serious damage including damage to rooftops and siding. Trees can be snapped or uprooted and block roads. Expect major power outages that lasts several days to weeks.
  • Category 3 Hurricane: Sustained wind speeds are between 111 and 129 mph (178-208 km/h). Homes will be damaged, including missing rooftops and gable ends. Several trees will likely be toppled and block roads or do more damage to structures. Power will be out for several days to weeks.
  • Category 4 Hurricane: Sustained wind speeds are between 130 and 156 mph (209-251 km/h). The affected area will likely be uninhabitable for weeks or months. Homes will be seriously damaged with loss of rooftops and walls. Most trees will be downed along with power lines that can isolate areas. Power will be out for weeks or months.
  • Category 5 Hurricane: Sustained winds are above 157 mph (252 km/h). Many homes will be destroyed. Trees will be uprooted. Power lines are downed and can isolate areas. The affected area can be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

An Explanation of the Saffir-Simpson Scale

The Saffir-Simpson scale is used to measure hurricane strength based mostly on wind speed

How Should You React to a Major Hurricane?

If you are in the path of a major hurricane, your best bet is to get out of the area. If you can't get out in time and become trapped by downed power lines or trees, you can't count on help getting to you quickly.

You should have a plan in place for evacuating yourself, your loved ones, your pets and everything that is important to you. You should also have a plan for recouping after losing your home to a hurricane. Sometimes that might mean relocating to a place that's less prone to serious storms, though no place is ever 100% immune to the harshness of Mother Nature. However, it's up to you and I've known guys who returned to New Orleans and rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. Stay safe, pay attention to weather reports and stay out of the way of major hurricanes.

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