Difference between a category 4 hurricane and category 5

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

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

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.

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.