Weather Events

What is the system used to calculate the strength of a hurricane?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. When a tropical storm's wind speed exceeds 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour), the storm is officially upgraded to a hurricane. It is at this point that the Saffir-Simpson scale of strength, or category system, comes into effect. The category system gauges a hurricane's intensity on two main factors: wind speed and storm surge, which refers to the abnormal rising of the sea level along the coast. A Category 1 hurricane exhibits winds that average around 87 mph (140 kph), with a general storm surge of about 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters). These storms generally result in some flooding but little lasting damage. A Category 5 hurricane, on the other hand, suffers winds that exceed 155 mph (249 kph) and can create a storm surge of more than 18 feet (5.5 meters). These storms can result in catastrophic damage to anything in their path.

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