TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As Hurricane Ian nears landfall somewhere along the west coast of Florida, it may be hard to visualize the strength of the potentially devastating and catastrophic hurricane-force winds residents will face across the state.
However, thanks to a visualization shared by the National Hurricane Center, residents can gain a better understanding of the storm damages they are likely to face in the coming days.
To start, hurricanes are measured using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The scale is a 1 to 5 rating based only on a hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speed.
It’s important to note, however, that the scale does not account for other potentially deadly hazards such as storm surge, rainfall flooding, and tornadoes, which all hurricanes can impose.
While all hurricanes can produce life-threatening winds, hurricanes rated Category 3 and higher are known as “major hurricanes,” NHC said. “These hurricanes are very likely to cause devastating to catastrophic wind damage and significant loss of life simply due to the strength of their winds.”
Category 1 hurricane (Sustained winds of 74-95 mph)
The NHC says Category 1 hurricanes produce very dangerous winds that will produce some damage. Well-constructed frame homes could suffer damage to roofs, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large tree branches will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Power lines and utility poles will likely sustain extensive damage and result in power outages that could last for several days.
Category 2 hurricane (Sustained winds of 96-110 mph)
Category 2 hurricanes can inflict major damage to roofs and siding on well-constructed frame homes. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and could block roadways or inflict further damage on vehicles or structures. Under a Category 2 hurricane, near-total power loss is expected, with outages likely to last from several days to weeks.
Category 3 hurricane (Sustained winds of 111-129 mph)
Category 3 hurricanes will inflict “devastating damage.” The NHC says roof decking and gable ends can be torn from well-built framed homes. Trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
Category 4 hurricane (Sustained winds of 130-156 mph)
The NHC says Category 4 hurricanes can cause “catastrophic damage” to well-built homes, ripping off much of roof structures and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees, power poles, and other debris can isolate residential areas from help. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Category 5 hurricane (Sustained winds of 157 mph or higher)
Under a Category 5 hurricane, the NHC says a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, roofs will be swept away, and walls will collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks or even months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Officials have urged Floridians to stay prepared ahead of Ian’s landfall. Additional information on Hurricane Ian, including tracking resources, can be found at WFLA.