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5 CategoriesThe Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale classifies storms into five categories based on their windspeed. The scale doesn't take into account rainfall or location, which means a Category 2 hurricane that hits a major city will probably inflict far more cumulative damage than a Category 4 hurricane that hits a rural area. The windspeed breakdown is as follows: Category 1: 74-95 mph (119-153 km/h) Category 2: 96-110 mph (154-177 km/h) Category 3: 111-130 mph (178-209 km/h) Category 4: 131-155 mph (210-249 km/h) Category 5: ? 156 mph (?250 km/h) Here are famous historical examples from each category.
Category 1: Danny (1985)Slide 2 of 11
Category 1: Danny (1985)Danny formed when a tropical depression crossed Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico, where it rapidly intensified into a tropical storm and then a hurricane. It fell back to tropical storm status shortly after hitting shore.
Landfall: Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 15, 1985
Max. windspeed at landfall: 80 mph (129 km/h)
Impact: Danny produced an outbreak of 39 tornadoes and flash flooding across the Gulf Coast and Southeastern United States. It caused $100 million (1985 USD) of damage and three fatalities, two of them directly related to the storm. Danny quickly downgraded to a tropical storm as it crossed over onto land. [How Do Hurricanes End?]Slide 3 of 11
Category 2: Erin (1995)Slide 4 of 11
Category 2: Erin (1995)Formed from a tropical wave (a type of low-pressure atmospheric trough that moves east to west) that crossed the Atlantic from Africa, Erin's intensity grew as it passed from Jamaica up to Florida's Atlantic coast. It gained windspeed in the Gulf and struck the Florida panhandle and Georgia as a category 2 hurricane.
Landfall: Atlantic coast of Florida on Aug. 2, 1995 (as a Category 1) and the Florida panhandle on Aug. 3 (as a Category 2)
Max. windspeed at landfall: 100 mph (160 km/h)
Impact: In Jamaica, heavy rains caused a plane crash that killed five people. There were six drowning deaths along Florida shores. The total monetary damage from Erin was $700 million (1995 USD), primarily from downed trees, crop damages and ship damages. Erin caused NASA to halt some activities and preparation of shuttles at Kennedy Space Center. [How Are Hurricanes Named?]Slide 5 of 11
Category 3: Katrina (2005)Slide 6 of 11
Category 3: Katrina (2005)Katrina formed over the Southeastern Bahamas and passed over land into the Gulf of Mexico. There it experienced unusually warm waters, and rapidly escalated to a category 5 hurricane before scaling down to a Category 3 upon hitting land.
Landfall: Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana on Aug. 28, 2005, then the Lousiana/Mississippi border with winds of 120 mph (193 km/h).
Impact: At least 1,836 people died in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods caused by the levee system breaking in New Orleans. This made it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane; total property damage was estimated at $81 billion (2005 USD). [What If Hurricane Katrina Hit New Orleans Today?]Slide 7 of 11
Category 4: The Great Galveston Hurricane (1900)Slide 8 of 11