Category 4 hurricane winds can rip off roofs; this video explains how | Hurricane Center

Hurricane Ida is expected to be an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm when it makes landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, with sustained winds of 140 mph in the Gulf of Mexico and 130 mph on land. Wind gusts can reach up to 160 mph.

But what does that mean when it comes to potential storm damage?

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is used to translate wind speed into the level of potential property damage that a storm at that wind speed can cause. A Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale has wind speeds ranging from 130 mph to 156 mph.

Here’s an animated video from the National Hurricane Center showing the potential damage from different storm categories (Can’t see the video? click here.).

The categories, in order of increasing strength, are tropical depression, tropical storm, and hurricane. Hurricanes are classified into five categories (Cat. 1 through Cat. 5)

‘Catastrophic’ damage

According to the National Hurricane Center, major hurricanes — storms classified as Category 3 and stronger — can cause devastating to catastrophic damage and significant loss of life simply because of the strength of their winds.

Category 4 winds can cause catastrophic damage. According to hurricane forecasters, that means:

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  • Well-built houses can suffer serious damage due to the loss of most of the roof construction and/or some exterior walls.
  • Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and utility poles knocked down. Fallen trees and power poles insulate residential areas.
  • Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months.
  • Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Distance to the eye is important

A Category 4 storm has wind speeds of up to 156 mph, but those winds are usually in a small area around the storm’s center, or eye. A raging torrent of wind and rain, known as the eyewall, packs in the most devastating winds, and generally the wind speeds decrease the further you get from the center. Even so, in a strong storm, dangerous winds can be present many tens of kilometers from the center of the storm.

Saffir-Simpson scale rates storms by wind speed only

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a rating from 1 to 5 based only on a hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speed. The scale does not take into account other potentially deadly hazards, such as storm surge, rainfall, flooding and tornadoes.

The wind categories are:

  • Tropical Storm: 39 to 73 mph
  • Category 1 hurricane: 74 to 95 mph
  • Category 2 hurricane: 96 to 110 mph
  • Category 3 hurricane (major hurricane): 111 to 129 mph
  • Category 4 hurricane: 130-156 mph
  • Category 5 hurricane: 157 mph and above

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Carlie Kollath Wells is a morning reporter at and The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Attorney.

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