MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - June 1st marks the start to hurricane season and with forecasters predicting an above average season in the Atlantic hurricane basin, we wanted to dive into the reason why wind speeds matter, when talking about hurricanes.
You will often hear meteorologist talk about categories of hurricanes. This is a range of wind speed along the Saffir-Simpson Scale that determines what category is with each storm that forms.
This scale allows forecasters to predict what kind of damage will be done to homes and surroundings based on how strong the winds are around the storm.
When winds around an area of a tropical cyclone reach 38 mph, this system is then giving the designation of a Tropical Depression. This is usually giving a numerical number at the start of formation.
Once the tropical cyclone reaches a maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph, the storm is upgraded to Tropical Storm status, that is when it is given a name by the National Hurricane Center.
As the cyclone continues to strengthen, the winds will reach a maximum between 74 to 90 mph it is considered a Category 1 Hurricane.. This will cause minimal damage due to the winds, but the storm could bring 4 to 5 feet of storm surge on shore.
The winds continue to grow, reaching a maximum between 96 and 110 mph, is when it is upgraded to a Category 2 storm. Moderate damage can occur and storm surge is around 6 to 8 feet.
As the winds reach 111 to 129 mph, the storm is then considered a Major Hurricane and garners a category 3 rating. Damage will be extensive and storm surge can reach between 9 to 12 feet.
The storm continues to grow to maximum sustained winds around 130 to 156 mph, the storm is now a Category 4 storm. Damage will be extreme and storm surge could reach 13 to 18 feet.
Finally, a storm that gains winds sustained 157 or higher is a Category 5 storm, the last category on the Saffir Simpson Scale. The damage with the highest rated storm will be catastrophic and the storm surge is expected to more than 18 feet.
Strong winds and heavy rain can cause major impacts on coastlines that are in the path of a major tropical cyclone. The winds in a storm are important to know to help people prepare and evacuate to safety.
Impacts can go far and wide with storms, physical damage will occur, along with losses to food and crops, casualties and public heath crises can occur and communication lines can be lost as the winds and storm surge pummel an area.