Wind Speeds – Tropical Depressions vs Tropical Storms vs Uh-Oh

A late season system has prompted some curiosity, and now is the perfect time to explain the difference in the terms used!  Going to keep it super simple and stick to wind speeds.

STAGE ONE: A tropical depression forms when a low pressure area is accompanied by thunderstorms that produce a circular wind flow with maximum sustained winds below 39 mph. Most tropical depressions have maximum sustained winds between 25 and 35 mph.  At my house … the plastic chairs on our patio start to move after 30+ mph.  Nothing to worry about, but if I am feeling OCD, it is a bit annoying that they moved 5 feet across the patio.  

STAGE TWO:  The tropical depression may have low air pressure, but it’s self esteem has grown in the form of stronger winds, has become more organized instead of being scattered all over the place and becomes a tropical storm. A tropical storm usually has sustained winds at the storms center, of 39 mph or higher with gusts of up to 73 mph.  Note:  We do stack up the patio furniture and move it to a corner because – gusts up to 73 mph possible!  We prefer our patio furniture stays home, as do our neighbors.

STAGE THREE: When are talking about Hurricanes, there is a system in place to rate storms in the Atlantic called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale which is great, if you live on the east coast and your homes and infrastructure are primarily wood framed homes.  Some areas of the world the homes are built with material far stronger, like Cabo San Lucas – our homes and buildings are built with reinforced concrete bricks using rebar, which are then are filled with concrete; super strong!  Sadly some areas of the world use lesser materials as we all mostly build with what is readily available.  Remember the story of the three little pigs?  Instead of the piggies being lazy, think in terms of what is available to build with.


There is no category 6 as the experts have decided a category 5 is already total destruction – which is totally lame that the whole world uses a system designed for wooden framed homes, but I digress.

We are at the end of the season.  Let’s hope the remainder is uneventful as the winds and the water are cooling off and there isn’t much fuel to feed a storm into growing up.   Keeping things simple … this is it for now.

For more info on how to interpret computer models, forecast tracks etc. we talked about earlier this year, please see older entries.

~ Jenn








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