Storm Classifications

Tropical cyclones are classified through the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which separates hurricane-equivalent storms (tropical cyclones with wind speeds of 64kts or greater) into five separate categories based on wind speed. Anything classified at category 3 or higher is entitled a “major” cyclone. Note that all damage descriptions listed below do not factor in rainfall, storm surge, tornadoes, and other hazards that tropical cyclones bring, only wind, unless otherwise stated.

Tropical Depression:

Winds: <33kts

Damage: Little to None

A tropical depression is the weakest rating for a tropical cyclone, and most barely qualify as one. Most tropical depressions are strengthening towards tropical storms when they are designated as such. Tropical Depressions do not gain names from official RSMCs. The primary threats with tropical depressions are not winds, but rather heavy rainfall and flooding.

Tropical Storm:

Winds: 34-63kts

Damage: Minor

A system becomes a tropical storm once it acquires 1-minute sustained gale force winds. The storm gains a name from the local RSMC once they believe this stage is reached. The wind andstorm surge threat increase at this stage, but rainfall remains the biggest threat. Damage is more noticeable, with broken trees and removed roof shingles being the most abundant form of damage with tropical storms. Isolated weak, short-lived tornadoes possible. Power outages are spotty depending on water-related impacts.

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