Severe Weather and Hurricane Rankings Everyone Should Know

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If you live in an area that deals with severe weather and/or hurricanes, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the ranking terms and what they mean to be better prepared and keep yourself safe.

You hear terms such as “Category 2 hurricane” or “Level 2 severe weather risk” – but what do these mean?

The first thing you should know as that the numbers that rank hurricane and severe weather threats aren’t interchangeable. For example, a Level 2 severe weather alert is only a slight risk of being life-threatening, whereas a Category 2 hurricane can be significantly life-threatening.

Understanding these numbers can help you to know when it is feasible to hunker down and when it is wise to evacuate. Here’s a simple guide to the weather rankings.

Hurricane Risk Categories

Hurricane category numbers are based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which gives a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speed, according to the NOAA. Keep in mind that this scale only looks at the wind and potential property damage. This scale does not consider the further damage that could be incurred from hazards such as storm surge, rainfall, flooding, and tornadoes. Storm surge is often the deadliest part of a hurricane, so look for those predictions as you make plans to keep yourself and your family safe.

Category 1: Winds between 74-95 MPH. Very dangerous winds that will produce some damage.

Category 2: Winds between 96-110 MPH. Extremely dangerous winds that will cause extensive damage.

Category 3 (major): Winds between 111-129 MPH. Devastating damage will occur.

Category 4 (major): Winds between 130-156 MPH. Catastrophic damage will occur.

Category 5 (major): Winds between 157 MPH or higher. Catastrophic damage will occur.

Severe Weather Risk Categories

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC), a division of the National Weather Service (NWS), assesses the risk of severe weather and places them into 5 different category ratings from 1 to 5, from low to high.

Level 1 (marginal risk): Isolated severe storms. Heavy rain, winds and hail her main threats. Limited in duration, coverage and intensity.

Level 2 (slight risk): Scattered severe storms. Damaging winds, 1″-2″ hail, 1-2 tornadoes. Not widespread, isolated intense storms, short-lived.

Level 3 (enhanced risk): Numerous severe storms. Likely wind damage, 1″-2″ hail, several tornadoes, widespread, a few intense storms, more persistent.

Level 4 (moderate risk): Widespread severe storms. Widespread wind damage, destructive hail, strong tornadoes, widespread severe storms, and long-lived intense storms.

Level 5 (high-risk): Widespread and long-lived destructive storms, catastrophic hail, tornado outbreak or derecho, widespread, long-lived, destructive storms.