Weather

What category is Hurricane Florence?

Here’s what hurricane categories mean — and how much damage to expect

Hurricane categories are used by the National Hurricane Center to gauge a hurricane's strength and predict potential property damage with each storm. Here's how the NHC defines each hurricane category — and how much damage each strength can cause.
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Hurricane categories are used by the National Hurricane Center to gauge a hurricane's strength and predict potential property damage with each storm. Here's how the NHC defines each hurricane category — and how much damage each strength can cause.

Hurricane Florence has been called an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” by the National Hurricane Center.

While that description is accurate, there is a more scientific way to measure the strength of the powerful storm.

And that scale currently rates Hurricane Florence as a Category 4 storm.

The Category designation was established in the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, according to the NHC. That measures the storm’s “sustained wind speed,” and any storm with winds moving faster than 111 mph is considered a major hurricane.

As of 5 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, Hurricane Florence was listed as a Category 4 storm because it had maximum sustained winds greater than 130 mph, according to Doug Anderson with the National Weather Service office in Columbia, South Carolina.

According to the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, a Category 4 hurricane will cause “catastrophic damage,” which can destroy homes and the recovery can take a long time. “Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” according to the NHC.

The Associated Press reported that Florence was “expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 157 mph or higher.”

Should Florence make landfall as as a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, it would be the first storm that powerful to hit North Carolina in more than 60 years, The State previously reported. Category 4 Hurricane Hazel hit in 1954, according to the National Weather Service. Should Florence make landfall in South Carolina, it would be the first Category 4 since 1989, when Hurricane Hugo ravaged the state.

“This has the potential to be like a Hugo,” Dan Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia, told The State. “Somebody somewhere is going to suffer devastating damage. ... This is a major hurricane that is going to impact the region and people need to prepare.”

Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale

Category 1 74-95 mph

Category 2 96-110 mph

Category 3 111-129 mph

Category 4 130-156 mph

Category 5 157-higher

Source: National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Florence gains strength in the Atlantic as it moves toward the southeast coast

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Florence

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