Here’s what the hurricane categories actually mean

hurricane-patricia

Hurricane Patricia as seen from space on Oct. 23, 2015 (NOAA).

The category of tropical storm a hurricane is in as it makes landfall actually makes a big difference on the amount of damage it could inflict.

 

For historical context, Hurricane Katrina reached a Category 5 storm out at sea, but hit New Orleans as a Category 3. Similarly, Hurricane Sandy was technically a post-tropical cyclone when it hit the East Coast, though it was a Category 3 at one point. Its storm surge reached 8 feet in parts of New Jersey.

So what do the categories mean?

And what could the damage be if a hurricane were to make landfall as a tropical storm, or a Category 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — or even 7?

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