Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Hurricane Wind Scale

This section of our website is dedicated to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHWS). This scale is used to classify tropical storms that have reached sustained hurricane strength winds. This scale is only used for hurricanes forming in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

The Saffir-Simpson scale has five categories for rating a hurricane's strength. A category 1 hurricane is the lowest strength, while a category 5 hurricane is the highest strength. The scale doesn't consider storm surge or produced rain.

Below you'll see a basic description for each category on this hurricane scale. If your research requires more information more about a specific category or notable hurricanes of that strength, simply click the image.



A Category One Hurricane

Category 1 Hurricane

A category one hurricane is the weakest hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricanes of this strength have sustained winds between 74 to 95 MPH. Some damage and potential loss of life can occur with a category 1 hurricane.

A Category Two Hurricane

Category 2 Hurricane

A category two hurricane is the second weakest hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricanes of this strength have sustained winds between 96 to 110 MPH. Extensive damage and potential loss of life could occur with a category 2 hurricane.

A Category Three Hurricane

Category 3 Hurricane

A category three hurricane is the median strength hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricanes of this strength have sustained winds between 111 to 129 MPH. Devastating damage and loss of life can occur with a category 3 hurricane.

A Category Four Hurricane

Category 4 Hurricane

A category four hurricane is the second strongest hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricanes of this strength have sustained winds between 130 to 156 MPH. Catastrophic damage and loss of life will occur with a category 4 hurricane.

A Category Five Hurricane

Category 5 Hurricane

A category five hurricane is the strongest hurricane on the Saffir Simpson scale. Hurricanes of this strength have sustained winds equal to and great than 157 MPH. Catastrophic damage and loss of live will occur with a category 5 hurricane.



Hurricane Winds Blowing Palm Trees

History of the Saffir-Simpson Scale

The Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale was developed by Herbert Saffir and Robert Simpson in 1971. At the time Saffir was a civil engineer and Simpson was a meteorologist and the director of the United States National Hurricane Center. The scale was made available to the public in 1974.

Saffir developed the initial scale, mirroring the rating methodology for the Richter scale that is used for earthquakes and gave it to the National Hurricane Center. Simpson's contribution to Saffir's scale was the effects of flooding and storm surge.

In 2009 the National Hurricane Center opted to remove flooding and storm surges from the scale, and the pure wind scale was officially used on May 15th, 2010. In 2012 NHC adjusted the windspeed range for a Category 4 hurricane, from 131-155 MPH to 130-156 MPH.