Difference between a category 4 hurricane and category 5

The following are safety tips from FEMA for during a hurricane.

Plus other terms you should know as Category 4 Hurricane Laura reaches Gulf coast

All eyes are on Hurricane Laura as the massive storm makes its way toward Louisiana and Texas.

As you watch televised reports from meteorologists at Channel 2 Action News, you might wonder what some of those terms they’re using actually mean.

» Track Hurricane Laura’s path

Here is a quick list of the most used hurricane words and what they mean according to the National Hurricane Center.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 categorization based on the hurricane's intensity.

  • Category 1: wind speed of 74-95 mph; very dangerous winds will produce some damage
  • Category 2: wind speed of 96-110 mph; extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage
  • Category 3: wind speed of 111-129 mph; devastating damage will occur
  • Category 4: wind speed of 130-156 mph; catastrophic damage will occur
  • Category 5: wind speed more than 156 mph; catastrophic damage will occur


The roughly circular area of comparatively light winds at the center of a storm.

Hurricane warning

A hurricane warning is an announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected. The warning can remain in effect — even if winds are less than hurricane force — when dangerously high water, or dangerously high water waves are present.

ExploreGeorgia to be spared most effects of Hurricane Laura

Hurricane watch

A hurricane watch is an announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are possible. A watch is issued about 48 hours before a storm is expected to reach tropical storm force, because preparations are difficult once that happens.


When meteorologists say a hurricane will make landfall soon, they are talking about when the eye of the storm meets the coastline.

Major hurricane

A hurricane that is classified as Category 3 or higher.

Storm surge

An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide.

ExploreLatest updates and safety information about Hurricane Laura

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