What Do Hurricane Categories Mean?

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The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which started on June 1 and ends on November 30, is predicted to be especially active compared to the 30-year average. Understanding how experts gauge the intensity of these storms will help you know what to expect and safeguard your home and family.

Here’s what the different hurricane categories mean and how you can best prepare for potential storms in advance.

Hurricane Categories and How Storms Progress

Hurricanes in the United States are measured by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Hurricanes are assigned a 1 – 5 rating based on their wind speed and potential for property damage. While hurricanes at Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes, the truth is there’s no such thing as a “minor” hurricane.

The five categories of hurricanes are:

  • Category 1: Very dangerous winds (74 – 95 mph) can cause damage to a home, including roofs, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. There can also be damage to trees and power lines.

  • Category 2: Extremely dangerous winds (96 – 110 mph) can cause extensive damage to your home. Trees can be snapped and uprooted, and you can expect power outages that could last for several days.

  • Category 3: Devastating damage will be caused by 111 – 129 mph winds, including the removal of roofs and trees that will block roadways. Electricity and water may not be available for several days to several weeks.

  • Category 4: Catastrophic damage will be caused by 130 – 156 mph winds. Homes will sustain severe damage, along with downed trees and power line poles that will isolate residential areas. Power outages can last for weeks to months, and the area may be uninhabitable for months.

  • Category 5: Catastrophic damage will be caused by winds exceeding 157 mph. A majority of homes in the area could be destroyed, along with the isolation of residential communities. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for months.

Prepare Now to Act Quickly When the Time Comes

Since these storms tend to develop and grow slowly — and since we can often pinpoint where they’ll make landfall — we usually have enough warning to prepare ourselves.

To be ready for hurricane season, you should:

  • Determine your risk. Wind and water hazards can happen anywhere, even if you don’t live on the coast.

  • Check your insurance. Talk to your agent now to make sure your homeowner’s insurance covers wind and flooding, will repair or rebuild your home, and also covers your car and boat.

  • Gather supplies. The post-hurricane recovery can be long even if you don’t have storm damage. Make sure you have at least a 3-day supply of nonperishable food, water and medicine for everyone in your family or group, including pets.

  • Reinforce your home. If you plan to shelter in place, be sure your home meets local hurricane building codes.

  • Plan to evacuate. If you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, plan where to go and how to get there.

  • Help your neighbors. Before an emergency, learn how you and your neighbors can help each other.

  • Be prepared to change plans. As good as your hurricane plans are, be ready to change with the situation based on the latest health and safety information from your local officials.

Continue to Protect Your Family From COVID-19

Whether you stay in your home during a hurricane or evacuate to a safer location, it’s important to maintain COVID-19 prevention practices. Planning ahead is also more critical since items (like bottled water and paper goods) that were once readily available may be in short supply.

For now, the best preventive tactic is to reduce your exposure to the virus and to help stop the spread by being considerate of others. As much as possible, you should continue to:

  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick

  • Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Disinfect surfaces like countertops, faucets, keyboards and phones

  • Maintain a safe distance of 6 feet, remembering that even asymptomatic people can spread the virus

  • Practice proper handwashing

  • Wear a mask

We’re Here for You at Every Step

Through any natural disaster or health crisis, you can count on our teams for the care and support you need. Learn how you can get the medical attention you need anytime, anywhere through convenient virtual visits.

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