Saffir-Simpson
Damage Potential Scale
for hurricanes

This scale, devised by J. H. Saffir and R. H. Simpson, was first used by the National Weather Service in 1975.ยน

Force Central Pressure Winds
(mph)
Storm
surge
(feet)
Damage
kilo-
pascals
inches of mercury
1 98.0 or more 28.94 74 to 95 4 to 5 Minimal. Damage primarily to shrubbery, trees, foliage, and unanchored mobile homes. No real damage to other structures. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Low-lying coastal roads flooded, minor pier damage, some small craft torn from moorings in exposed anchorage.

Examples: Allison and Noel (both 1995).

2 96.5 to 97.9 28.50 to 28.91 96 to 110 6 to 8 Moderate. Considerable damage to shrubbery and tree foliage; some trees blown down. Major damage to exposed mobile homes. Extensive damage to poorly constructed signs. Some damage to roofing materials of buildings; some window and door damage. No major damage to buildings. Coastal roads and low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water two to four hours before arrival of hurricane center. Considerable damage to piers; marinas flooded. Small craft torn from moorings in unprotected anchorages. Evacuation of some shoreline residences and low-lying island areas required.

Examples: Hurricane Bertha when it hit the North Carolina coast (1996).

3 94.5 to 96.4 27.91 to 28.47 111 to 130 9 to 12 Extensive. Foliage torn from trees; large trees blown down. Practically all poorly constructed signs blown down. Some damage to roofing materials of buildings; some window and door damage. Some structural damage to small buildings. Mobile homes destroyed. Serious flooding at coast; many smaller structures near coast destroyed; larger structures near coast damaged by battering waves and floating debris. Low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water three to five hours before hurricane center arrives. Flat terrain five feet or less above sea level flooded inland eight miles or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences within several blocks of shoreline possibly required.

Example: Hurricane Fran when it hit the North Carolina coast (1996).

4 92.0 to 94.4 27.17 to 27.88 131 to 155 13 to 18 Extreme. Shrubs and trees blown down; all signs down. Extensive damage to roofing materials, windows, and doors. Complete failure of roofs on many small residences. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Flat terrain 10 feet or less above sea level flooded inland as far as six miles. Major damage to lower floors of structures near shore due to flooding and battering by waves and floating debris. Low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water three to five hours before hurricane center arrives. Major erosion of beaches. Massive evacuation of all residences within 500 yards of shore possibly required and evacuation of single-story residence on low ground within two miles of shore required.

Example: Hurricane Luis moving over the Leeward Islands (1995).

5 91.9 or less 27.16 or less 156+ 18.1+ Catastrophic. Shrubs and trees blown down; considerable damage to roofs of all buildings; all signs torn down. Very severe and extensive damage to windows and doors. Complete failure of roofs on many residences and industrial buildings; extensive shattering of glass in windows and doors. Some complete building failures. Small buildings overturned or blown away. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Major damage to lower floors of all structures less than 15 feet above sea level within 500 yards of shore. Low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water three to five hours before hurricane center arrives. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within five to 10 miles of shore may be required.

Example: Hurricane Gilbert at peak intensity (1988).

Between 1900 and 1989 there were:

1. R.H. Simpson.
“A proposed scale for ranking hurricanes by intensity.”
Minutes of the Eighth National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service Hurricane Conference, 1971.

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