The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a scale classifying hurricanes by the intensity of their sustained winds, developed in 1969 by civil engineer Herbert Saffir and National Hurricane Center director Bob Simpson. Classifications are used to gauge the likely damage and flooding a hurricane will cause upon landfall. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is used only to describe hurricanes forming in the Atlantic and northeast Pacific Oceans. Other areas use their own classification schemes.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology uses a 1-5 scale called tropical cyclone severity categories. Unlike the Saffir-Simpson Scale, severity categories are based on strongest wind gusts and not sustained winds. Severity categories are scaled somewhat lower than the Saffir-Simpson Scale, with a severity category 2 tropical cyclone being roughly equivalent to a Saffir-Simpson category 1 hurricane.
The initial scale was developed by Saffir while on commission from the United Nations to study low-cost housing in hurricane-prone areas. While performing the study, Saffir realized there was no simple scale for describing the likely effects of a hurricane. Knowing the utility of the Richter magnitude scale in describing earthquakes, he devised a 1–5 scale based on wind speed that showed expected damage to structures. Saffir gave the scale to the NHC, and Simpson added in the effects of storm surge and flooding.
The five categories are, in order of increasing intensity:
Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.
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