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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.
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Hurricane Categories Don't Tell You Anything About The Water

Forecasters expect Hurricane Florence to make landfall as a Category 2 storm, which means its winds won't be as bad as they might have been. 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. 


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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. 

Forecasters expect Florence to behave a lot like Harvey — moving slow and dumping a lot of rain. Even if it is a lower-wind storm, officials warn catastrophic flooding will likely extend into next week.