The SSHS Demystified
Anyone living on the Gulf Coast probably already knows that hurricane season arrives next week. Tropical disturbances will be making the top headlines, storm systems will be watched diligently, and meteorological terms like “sustained winds” and “central pressure” will be the norm for the next six months.
But what does it all mean!?
Hurricanes are typically categorized on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, (or the SSHS for short), and are labeled from Category 1 to Category 5 by their sustained wind speed near the eye of the storm.
Wind speed seems like such a far-off, abstract concept and the damage caused from winds alone can easily be underestimated. Wind itself is invisible and intangible; difficult to imagine, so here’s a handy little comparison guide to help visualize the intensity of each hurricane category.
Tropical Depression: 38 MPH, just a light trip down a winding country road in your car or stuck in traffic during rush-hour. Inconvenient, but no real cause for alarm if it makes landfall.
Tropical Storm: 39-73 MPH, average state highway speed, lessened reaction time. Can cause minor damage if left unchecked, so be aware.
Category 1: 74-95 MPH, Jumping onto the Interstate, merge with caution. Anything unachored or poorly fastened will topple over and blow away. Smaller trees can be uprooted and/or snapped, but power lines are relatively safe with few power outages. Batten down the hatches and structural damage should be kept to a minimum.
Category 2: 96-110 MPH, Driving the Autobahn in Germany. Very little room for error. Roofing material will likely be damaged. Unprotected doors and windows will be broken. Mobile homes will typically sustain structural damage. Stronger trees are uprooted and a few power lines are likely to come down, causing near-total power outages.
Category 3: 111-129 MPH, the average speed of a Japanese bullet train. Small structures and mobile homes will likely be irrepairably damaged. Gable roofs will peel away. Mobile home and beach residents are urged to evacuate. Flying debris becomes a serious problem. A larger number of trees are uprooted and power lines are in more danger, causing power loss for weeks. Water is also likely contaminated so boil orders may be issued.
Category 4: 130-156 MPH, an average NASCAR race. Complete destruction of smaller structures, canopies and overhangs is inevitable. Mobile homes are flattened. Most trees are uprooted. Storm surge causes massive beach erosion and inland flooding. Mandatory evacuations will probably go into effect. Expect flood damage on ground-built homes. Water and electricity will be offline for weeks.
Category 5: 157+ MPH, the average take-off speed of a jetliner. No roof is safe. Wide-span roof and wall collapse is common. Higher storm surge makes inland flooding more likely. All coastal residents should evacuate, no exceptions. Expect no water or power for months.
Of course, this is merely a simple guide. More comprehensive guides exist and each storm system should be treated with the utmost importance. And of course, if you live on the Gulf Coast, don’t underestimate the importance of a good wind policy. It’s not a matter of IF, you’ll need it, it’s WHEN.
Have any insurance concerns for this hurricane season? Give us a call and we’ll get everything squared away for you!
First Baldwin Insurance