Ask Josh Fitzpatrick: Rating Tornadoes and Hurricanes

Tornadoes and Hurricanes are rated on different scales. Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick explains what the scales are and how they're different.

We've seen a lot of damage across the nation this spring and early summer season from all the tornadoes that have touched down.  When we talk about a tornado’s damage path you'll often hear us mention the scale of damage using the Fujita scale. 


Amy in Boyd County, Kentucky asks: "What exactly is the Fujita scale and what scale do you use to rate hurricanes?" 


Those are very good questions, Amy and here's a look at the Fujita scale. 



In the early 1970s, University of Chicago meteorology professor, Dr. Theodore Fujita developed a scale to rate a tornado’s damage.  It starts with zero, being the weakest and ends with five, being the strongest.  In 2007 the scale was enhanced and is now known as the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale.  It was enhanced because the old scale's wind speeds were too high.  It's now known it doesn't take those very high winds to cause the damage seen. 


Hurricanes are rated differently.  We use the Saffir-Simpson scale to rate hurricanes.  In 1971, civil engineer Herbert Saffir and meteorologist Bob Simpson who was the director of the National Hurricane center at the time developed a one to five category list to rate a hurricane based on its wind speed.  A category one is the weakest.  When a hurricane is rated a three or higher it's considered a major hurricane.  A category five is the strongest with winds greater than 155 mph. 



The last time a cat. Five hit the U.S. was in 1992 when hurricane Andrew slammed the southern suburbs of Miami, FL.


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