Hurricanes: Categories and Effects

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  • 0:09 Hurricanes
  • 1:03 Categories
  • 2:56 Effects
  • 4:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Hurricanes are strong storms with sustained winds of more than 74 mph. There are 5 categories based on wind speed, with a Category 1 hurricane creating the least damage and a Category 5 creating the most. Learn about hurricanes and their destruction.


If you were in the path of a hurricane, would you want it to be a Category 1 or a Category 5 storm? What causes the most damage when a hurricane strikes land? Is it the wind? What about the flooding? In this lesson, we will take a look at hurricanes and learn the effects hurricanes have when they hit land.

Hurricanes are tropical storms with constant winds of 74 mph or greater. They gather energy as they cross over warm ocean waters. These warm waters provide the warm, moist air that the hurricane uses as fuel. As the warm air rises, it creates an area of low pressure near the surface of the ocean that pulls in converging winds from all directions. These winds get warmed and then spiral upward as the tropical storm strengthens into a hurricane.

Categories of Hurricanes

Hurricanes start to gather strength in the warm tropical waters and develop in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30. Hurricanes that strike the Eastern Pacific area may show up earlier, and that hurricane season is from May 15 to November 30.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a scale from 1 to 5 used to categorize hurricanes according to their sustained wind speeds. The scale is used as a guide to predict potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast when a hurricane strikes land. Category 1 is used to describe the weakest hurricane. A Category 1 hurricane will have sustained winds between 74 and 95 mph. While this wind speed is faster than a cheetah, which is the fastest animal on earth, the hurricane will do minimal damage to the coastline.

A Category 2 hurricane will have sustained winds between 96 and 110 mph. This is in the range of a Major League Baseball pitcher's best fastball. A Category 3 hurricane will have sustained winds between 111 and 130 mph, which is in the range of a professional tennis player's best serve. A Category 4 hurricane has sustained winds between 131 and 155 mph, which is a speed that tops the world's fastest rollercoaster.

And a Category 5 hurricane will have sustained winds over 155 mph. Category 5 hurricanes are capable of the most catastrophic damage, with winds traveling as fast as some of the fastest, high-speed trains in the world.

Effects of Hurricanes

When a hurricane strikes land, it brings with it heavy rains and strong winds. We already learned that wind is one of the effects of hurricanes and that wind speed is what allows us to categorize hurricanes. Strong winds that come with a hurricane can uproot trees, knock over power lines and damage buildings.

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