When it comes to tropical weather systems, there are actually four distinct categories that are used to classify them based on their sustained wind speeds. These categories include:
Tropical Depression: This type of tropical storm has sustained maximum winds of 38mph (33 knots) or less. While these storms are the weakest of the bunch, they can still bring heavy rain and flooding to affected areas.
Tropical Storm: With sustained wind speeds ranging from 39-73 miles per hour (34 up to 63 knots), tropical storms are significantly more powerful than depressions. When a storm reaches this category, it is given a name to help track its path and potential impact.
Category 1-2 Hurricane: These hurricanes have sustained maximum winds of 74-110 miles per hour (64-96 knots) and 111-129 miles per hour (96-112 knots) respectively. While still powerful, these storms are on the lower end of the hurricane scale and typically cause moderate damage to affected areas.
Category 3-5 Hurricane: This is the most severe category of tropical storm, with sustained wind speeds ranging from 130-156 miles per hour (113-136 knots), 157-174 miles per hour (137-151 knots), and 175 miles per hour (152 knots) or greater, respectively. These hurricanes are capable of causing catastrophic damage to affected areas and can take a significant toll on human life.
By understanding the different categories of tropical weather systems, meteorologists and emergency management professionals can better prepare for and respond to any potential impacts from these storms.