Hurricane Irma Upgraded To Category 5: What Does It Mean?

Following the disastrous Category 4 Hurricane Harvey that left thousands of people displaced and historic floods in Texas, a new hurricane has formed threatening once again the U.S.

Hurricane Irma is a powerful tropical cyclone putting at risk the Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Anguilla.

The tropical cyclone upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane with 180 mph winds over Labor Day weekend, becoming the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic since 2007, according to USA Today.

“It is still too early to tell the exact impact Irma will have on the United States,” notes CNN; nonetheless, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Florida on September 4th, advising residents to stock their hurricane kits.

Hurricanes are massive storms that form over water and move toward land, with disastrous threats including high winds, flooding, rip currents, rainfall, and tornadoes. They range from Category 1 to 5. Here’s what each Category means, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Categories of a Hurricane

Category 1: Sustained winds of 74-95 mph

Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.

Category 2: Sustained winds of 96-110 mph

Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks
Category 3: Sustained winds of 111-129 mph

Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many 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: Sustained winds of 130-156 mph

Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Category 5: Sustained winds of 157 mph or higher

Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

How To Prepare For Hurricane Irma

1. Build a basic emergency kit

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • For additional emergency supplies, such as medications and pet necessities, click here.

2. Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground.

3. Cover all of your home’s windows. Storm shutters are the best protection, a second option is to use 5/8″ marine plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.

4. Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.

5. If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.

  • For a complete guideline on how to prepare for a hurricane, head over to FEMA.
  • For a complete guideline on what to do during and after a hurricane, head over to READY.
  • To monitor Hurricane Irma, head over to NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER.