Hurricane Categories Don't Tell You Anything About The Water

The Hurricane wind scale classifies storms into five wind speed categories — but storms lower on that scale can still cause life-threatening flooding.
Posted at 12:34 PM, Oct 09, 2018

When forecasters talk about hurricanes making landfall, mention of their severity on the five-category hurricane scale usually isn't far behind. But a hurricane's category doesn't convey all of its risks. 

Categories only measure wind speed. They don't account for the area a storm covers or measure rainfall or storm surge — which are deadlier than hurricane winds, on average. 

And recent history shows that a low-category storm can do as much or more water damage than a storm with stronger winds. 

Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 storm. Sandy had Category 1 winds when it flooded New York City. Much of the flooding from Harvey came while it was a tropical storm — below Category 1 on the wind scale.