Hurricane Ian approached the Florida coast on Wednesday just ahead of the most dangerous Category 5 storm, but what exactly does that mean?
Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified as it neared landfall along Florida’s southwest coast Wednesday morning, gaining top winds of 155 mph. Devastating winds and rain battered the state, and the heavily populated region from Naples to Sarasota was most at risk from a devastating storm surge.
Follow the storm’s live radar as it nears landfall here.
The massive storm appeared on track to crash somewhere north of Fort Myers and about 125 miles (201 kilometers) south of Tampa, sparing the Bay Area from a rare direct hit from a hurricane . The area is popular with retirees and tourists drawn by the pristine white sand beaches and long barrier islands, which forecasters predict could be completely flooded.
“The impacts are going to be much, much wider than where the eye of the storm makes landfall,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Tuesday at a press conference. “In some areas, there will be catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surges.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hurricane strength is classified on a scale of five categories, which are based entirely on wind speed and estimated damage.
Only when hurricanes reach a Category 3 or higher, however, are they considered major storms in which significant damage and death are possible. Hurricane Ian, currently with winds at 155 mph, is 2 mph from a Category 5 storm.
Here is a breakdown of each hurricane category, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
Category 1: Winds of 74 to 95 mph
These storms have very dangerous winds, capable of producing damage. Well-built frame homes could have damage to the roof, shingles, vinyl siding, and gutters. Large tree branches break and trees with shallow roots can be knocked over. Extensive damage to power lines and poles will likely result in power outages lasting from a few days to several days.
Category 2: Winds of 96 to 110 mph
Extremely dangerous winds will cause considerable damage: well-built frame houses could suffer significant damage to the roof and siding. Many trees with shallow roots will be broken or uprooted and block many roads. Near total loss of power is expected with outages that could last from several days to several weeks.
Category 3: Winds of 111 to 129 mph
Devastating damage will occur: Well-constructed frame homes can suffer major damage or removal of roof decking and gables. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking many roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to several weeks after the storm has passed.
Category 4: Winds of 130 to 156 mph
Catastrophic Damage Will Occur: Well-built frame homes can sustain severe damage with the loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and utility poles knocked down. Fallen trees and utility poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks or even months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Category 5: Winds of 157 mph or more
Catastrophic damage will occur: a high percentage of frame houses will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and utility poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks or even months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.