Hurricane: The strongest hurricanes and How they are ranked
The name "hurricane" is derived from the aboriginal Caribes (indigenous peoples of the
West Indies at the time of the arrival of Christopher Columbus) expression for "evil spirit."
"Nature, at times, as we know her, is no saint."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
How hurricanes are
ranked, the Saffir-Simpson scale,
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the
hurricane's intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the
potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a
hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale,
as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the
continental shelf in the landfall region. Note that all winds are using
the U.S. 1-minute average.
Category One Hurricane:
Winds 74-95 mph. Storm surge generally 4-5 ft above normal. No real
damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile
homes, shrubbery, and trees. Some damage to poorly constructed signs.
Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage. Hurricanes
Allison and Noel of 1995 were Category One hurricanes at peak
Category Two Hurricane:
Winds 96-110 mph. Storm surge generally 6-8 feet above normal. Some
roofing material, door, and window damage of buildings. Considerable
damage to shrubbery and trees with some trees blown down. Considerable
damage to mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, and piers. Coastal
and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of the
hurricane center. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.
Hurricane Bertha of 1996 was a Category Two hurricane when it hit the
North Carolina coast, while Hurricane Marilyn of 1995 was a Category
Two Hurricane when it passed through the Virgin Islands.
Category Three Hurricane:
Winds 111-130 mph. Storm surge generally 9-12 ft above normal. Some
structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a
minor amount of curtainwall failures. Damage to shrubbery and trees
with foliage blown off trees and large tress blown down. Mobile homes
and poorly constructed signs are destroyed. Low-lying escape routes are
cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the hurricane center.
Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger
structures damaged by battering of floating debris. Terrain
continuously lower than 5 ft above mean sea level may be flooded inland
8 miles or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences with several blocks
of the shoreline may be required. Hurricanes Roxanne of 1995 and Fran
of 1996 were Category Three hurricanes at landfall on the Yucatan
Peninsula of Mexco and in North Carolina, respectively.
Category Four Hurricane:
Winds 131-155 mph. Storm surge generally 13-18 ft above normal. More
extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure
failures on small residences. Shrubs, trees, and all signs are blown
down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors
and windows. Low-lying escape routes may be cut by rising water 3-5
hours before arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower
floors of structures near the shore. Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea
level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas
as far inland as 6 miles (10 km). Hurricane Luis of 1995 was a Category
Four hurricane while moving over the Leeward Islands. Hurricanes Felix
and Opal of 1995 also reached Catgeory Four status at peak intensity.
Category Five Hurricane:
Winds greater than 155 mph. Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft
above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial
buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings
blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete
destructon of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door
damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours
before arrival of the hurricane center. Major damage to lower floors of
all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500
yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low
ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required.
Sources: The National Hurricane Center. John Hopkins University. FEMA
For every year, there is a pre-approved list of names for tropical storms and hurricanes. These lists have been generated by the National Hurricane Center since 1953. At first, the lists consisted of only female names; however, since 1979, the lists alternate between male and female.
Hurricanes are named alphabetically from the list in chronological order. Thus the first tropical storm or hurricane of the year has a name that begins with "A" and the second is given the name that begins with "B." The lists contain names that begin from A to W, but exclude names that begin with a "Q" or "U."
There are six lists that continue to rotate. The lists only change when there is a hurricane that is so devastating, the name is retired and another name replaces it.
Strongest Hurricanes That struck the United States, measured by central pressure readings