A hurricane is an intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or higher.


  • Category One: Winds of 74-95 mph. No real damage to building structures, Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal road flooding and minor pier damage.
  • Category Two: Winds of 96-110 mph. Some roofing material, door, and window damage to buildings. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, and piers. Small craft in unprotected anchorages break moorings.
  • Category Three: Winds of 111-130 mph. Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings with a minor amount of curtainwall failures, Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.
  • Category Four: Winds of 131-155 mph. More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore Terrain may be flooded well inland.
  • Category Five: Winds greater than 155 mph. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Major damage to lower floors of all structures located near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.
Hurricane Sandy


Storm Surge

A storm surge is a dome of water pushed onshore by hurricane and tropical storm winds. Storm surges can reach 25 feet high and be 50-1000 miles wide.

Storm Tide

A storm tide is a combination of storm surge and the normal tide (i.e., a 15-foot storm surge combined with a 2-foot normal high tide over the mean sea level created a 17-foot storm tide).

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Watch

This means hurricane/tropical storm conditions are possible in the specified area, usually within 36 hours. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Short Term Watches & Warnings

These warnings provide detailed information about specific hurricane threats, such as flash floods and tornadoes.

Monitoring Atlantic Storms

Tropical storms and hurricanes can be monitored through the National Hurricane Center website.