Revising hurricane categories - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Revising hurricane categories

Question:

On the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, Category 5 begins at 155 mph. Hurricane Allen in 1980 and Hurricane Camille in 1969 reached 190 mph. Why hasn't the scale been revised to add categories 6 and 7?

Answer:

True, there has been some talk about creating "new", higher categories for hurricanes.

The Saffir-Simpson (S/S) scale originally was developed for engineering and structural purposes - not for meteorologically measuring a storm.  But once the S/S scale became popular, it was adapted as a simple "classification" scheme for the media and for the general public.  But it is a generalized scale, not a scientific measurement.   And I think that more S/S categories would simply mean more confusion.

Remember, "meteorologically," we already have a scale:  it's called "miles-per-hour" (or knots, or meters-per-second, etc.). 

The engineering oriented S/S scale was designed to QUALITATIVELY rank the storm's structural damage potential, and five levels of damage is a nice round number for a series of "qualitative" categories.  Frankly, hardly any traditional structure will survive a "Cat 5" strike, regardless of whether the winds are 156 mph, 166 mph, or 196 mph.  So "Cat 5" becomes the "catastrophic damage" level - easier to remember!

What would "Cat 7" be?  "Super-duper, double-dog catastrophic damage?"

Personally, I say, "Cat 6 . . . Cat 7?  What's the real point?  Tell me the mph!"

Jay Grymwes
Chief Meteorologist
WAFB Storm Team

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