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Hurricane Categories

Here's a quick recap of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale and what it means for you when it comes to protecting your boat during a storm.

Hurricane satellite view

Photo: NOAA

Your BoatUS App just sent you an alert that a tropical storm has formed in the Atlantic Ocean and is headed your way. It's expected to become hurricane, and early models show it sweeping up the East Coast. As you dust off your hurricane plan that you updated in the spring, you start to put all the wheels in motion to ensuring your boat is as safe as possible in case the storm hits. Understanding the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is an important part of your planning.


For nearly four decades, the BoatUS CAT (Catastrophe) Team has been assisting BoatUS policyholders with claims and cleanup after natural disasters. Learn from their unparalleled body of knowledge on what works and doesn't work when preparing boats for hurricanes.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale assigns a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane's sustained wind speed and helps estimate the property damage you might expect. Hurricanes classified as Category 3, Category 4, and Category 5 are considered "major" hurricanes due to the potential for significant losses of lives and property. That's not to say you shouldn't be concerned about Category 1 and Category 2 storms when it comes to securing your boat; they still require preventive measures.

Below is hurricane category chart, including information on tropical depressions and tropical storms.

Category # Barometric Pressure Wind Speed Storm Surge Damage
Cat 1 more than 980 mb
28.9395 in
74–95 mph 4–5 ft. Minimal
Cat 2 965–979 mb
28.49655–28.90997 in
96–110 mph 6–8 ft. Moderate
Cat 3 945–964 mb
27.90594–28.46702 in
111–130 mph 9–12 ft. Extensive
Cat 4 920–944 mb
27.16769–27.87641 in
131–155 mph 13–18 ft. Extreme
Cat 5 919 mb
27.13816 in
Over 155 mph Over 18 ft. Catastrophic

Tropical depression: maximum sustained winds of 39 mph

Tropical storm: 40–73 mph

Named Storm Haulout Coverage

All BoatUS Marine Insurance Program policies receive named storm haulout reimbursement. When your boat is in the path of a NOAA named storm (within the "cone"), you are eligible for 50% of the cost of labor, up to $1,000, to have your boat professionally hauled or prepared. (BoatUS identified "professionals" to include marina personnel, paid captains, dockmasters, or marine surveyors.)

Well before hurricane season starts, develop a hurricane plan, and share it with your marina manager. If your plan includes hauling, join your marina's "hurricane club," if it has one, to ensure you are on the priority list. Don't expect to be able to make the request once a hurricane is announced.

Finally, if your boat is kept in an area that is affected by hurricanes, contact your boat insurer before the start of hurricane season (June 1 to November 30, peaking mid-August to late October) to ensure you have the right coverage and that you are in the right coverage area. Once a hurricane is threatening, it's too late.

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BoatUS Editors

Contributor, BoatUS Magazine

Award-winning BoatUS Magazine is the official publication of Boat Owners Association of The United States. The magazine provides boating skills, DIY maintenance, safety, news and more from top experts.