Get to know the Saffir-Simpson wind scale

Tracking the Tropics

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – The Saffir-Simpson Scale is well-known to Gulf Coast residents. This scale, which has been the main tool of use when classifying hurricanes, does have it’s limitations.

The scale was created by civil engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Robert Simpson in 1971. At the time of its creation, Simpson was leading the team at the National Hurricane Center. The scale was introduced to the public in 1973.

When first released, the Saffir-Simpson Scale categorized hurricanes based on wind speed. The scale also included expected information regarding potential impacts from storm surge and wave heights. Mentions of storm surge and pressure would later be removed from the scale in 2010, making it a categorization method based solely on wind speed. Additional adjustments to the designated wind speeds were made in 2012.

The Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale

Keep in mind that this scale is only based on a storm’s maximum sustained winds. As we know on the Gulf Coast, hurricanes bring more than just strong winds. They can bring life-threatening storm surge, devastaing inland flooding, and numerous tornadoes. Preparation or evacuation decisions should not be solely based on the category of a hurricane.

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