Why Hurricane Irma can never be a Category 6
Hurricane Irma’s strongest winds to date clocked in at 185 mph, which puts it in the top five most intense hurricanes ever in the Atlantic.
Only one other Atlantic hurricane in history has had stronger winds — Hurricane Allen in 1980.
The Saffir-Simpson scale ranks hurricanes into five categories based on their strength. It was developed by a civil engineer and a meteorologist to better help inform the public what kind of damage was to be expected from incoming storms.
In this scale, each category’s winds range between 14 and 26 mph, and Category 5 storms are open-ended with wind speeds at or stronger than 157 mph.
If we took the same scale and extended it to include a Category 6, a storm of that magnitude would likely have winds greater than 177 mph, easily covering Irma’s current wind speeds.
However, storms rarely reach these kinds of wind speeds. There have only ever been four other Atlantic hurricanes to hit Irma’s 185 mph winds, and two others surpassed the 177 mph mark.
The Saffir-Simpson scale was introduced to determine potential damages, and Category 5 storms are listed as “catastrophic,” and since it can’t get worse than catastrophic, there isn’t much need for a Category 6 or anything higher.