The Hurricane Wind Scale

Saffir-Simpson 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 that form 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 scale. If you want to learn more about a past major hurricane, you can visit our section on historic hurricanes.


Hurricane Categories

The Hurricane Wind Scale

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 and 95 mph (119 and 153 km/h). Some damage and potential loss of life can occur with a category 1 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 and 110 mph (154 and 177 km/h). Extensive damage and potential loss of life could occur with a category 2 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 and 129 mph (178 and 208 km/h). Devastating damage and loss of life can occur with a category 3 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 and 156 mph (209 and 251 km/h). Catastrophic damage and loss of life will occur with a category 4 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 (252 km/h). Catastrophic damage and loss of live will occur with a category 5 hurricane.