When hurricane season arrives each year on June 1, phrases such as "storm surge," "wind speed," and "eyewall" suddenly become part of the summer lexicon in the United States. But probably the most important words to know about a hurricane are those that describe its power — and those include whether it's a Category 1 or a Category 5. The variance between the strengths of these two storms could mean the difference between life and death.
Meteorologists rank hurricanes from one to five based on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The scale is a yardstick that takes into account a hurricane's wind speed, storm surge and air pressure. The scale begins with a Category 1, the least powerful and dangerous hurricane, and moves towards its climax at Category 5 — the most catastrophic. But how did the Saffir-Simpson scale come to be, and what does it mean? We'll tell you in a bit. Let's first look at what a hurricane is, how it forms and why we need to be aware of its destructive power.