Hurricanes are some of the most dangerous forces of nature. They can last for days, and wreak devastation on everything and anything in their path. Those living in hurricane prone areas want, and need, to know when they are likely to make landfall, and how dangerous the situation may become. The Saffir-Simpson scale has proven to be a useful method in explaining the intensity of these storms, what damage might occur, and the actions needed to protect life and property.
The Saffir-Simpson scale, named for it’s creators, was developed in 1971, but not actually made available until 1973. This scale, designed to put hurricanes into categories, according to intensity and wind speed, has helped to give residents a better understanding of what to expect from the storm and ample time to prepare a plan, or evacuate. People in hurricane areas watch and listen for these categories to change, before determining their response. The scale originally contained storm surge, and pressure information, but it was found that varying topographies and water depth often changed this data, and these predictions were eliminated from the scale. It also does not predict tornado or rainfall data.
A table, provided by the National Hurricane Center lists the five hurricane categories, ranging in wind speeds from 74, to well over 155 mph. Each category has further descriptions, involving the effect of the hurricane on human life, buildings, and the environment.
Going across the hurricane table, it lists the effect of each category on people, livestock and pets, mobile homes, frame homes, apartments, shopping centers and industrial buildings, high-rise windows and glass, signage, fences, and canopies, trees, and power and water. These predictions for each category are based on wind speed, and past experience with what damage each storm is capable of doing.
Also listed on the chart are summaries, ranging from category 1, which has extremely dangerous winds, producing some damage, to category 5, which is listed as catastrophic.
To further explain the categories, and make the differences more clear, examples of past hurricanes and their effect are also listed, giving people a better understanding of what they may be facing and what actions to take.
Consulting the scale, or, at the very least, being more aware of what forecasters are talking about in relation to the different categories and their intensity, can make a big difference in how people prepare themselves and their property. It can also determine how many people will survive.