Hurricanes are divided into 5 categories: Cat 1 with winds of 74 - 95 MPH. No real damage expected (although Wilma last year was reputed to be a Cat 1 and anyone watching the coverage will agree that, next to Andrew, the change in Miami's landscape had never been greater).
Cat 2 with winds of 96 - 110 mph. Storm surges usually 6 - 8 feet (storm surges often cause the largest amounts of death in low lying areas). Roofing material starts to fly off, doors and windows may implode. Signs and mobile homes start to suffer damage. Alot more trees down.
Cat 3 with winds of 111 - 130 mph. Structural damage is now pretty well assured, specially in poorly constructed homes. Utility buildings, larger trees blown down and mobile homes suffering large amounts of damage.
Cat 4 with winds of 131 - 155 mph. Hurricane Katrina was a 4 (downgraded after a brief stint as a 5). Storm surge now up to 18 ft of water! Walls begin to fail in buildings and complete roofs blown off. Most street signs, large signs such as gas stations, grocery stores, shopping centers are blown away. Anything not tied down becomes a high powered flying projectile.
3 - 6 hours before hurricane actually arrives, any escape routes may be cut off due to heavy rains, storms and gusty winds. Major damage to buildings and homes.
Cat 5 with winds of 155mph or greater - HURRICANE ANDREW...
Anyone having seen or being familiiar with Miami Dade County during Hurricane Andrew will tell you that it is total catastrophic.
Complete roof failure, buildings blown out, mass destruction and great loss of life are all possibilities.
Almost all trees, shrubs and signs are totally stripped and blown down. To awaken to the aftermath of a sustained Cat 5 hurricane is to gaze upon a changed landscape, unrecognizable and seemingly out of an atomic bomb blast.
Although seemingly "cool" when watching it on TV, it is guaranteed to be the scariest moment of your life as you listen to your house fall apart around you, not knowing when it will end.
In Florida, everything is so well organised for you. Should there be a hurricane on your way while staying in Miami, just wait at this sign, and they will take you away.....
... to a place where there is no storm?
As it is widely publicized by the news, we get our fair share of the hurricanes. If you have not experienced one, don't try to. It is a massive cyclone which inundates the area it hits, and also typically rips everything apart by its winds. If you are unlucky to be here when it hits, stay inside! Flying debris and live wire may kill you, and there are several idiots every year to whom this happens. And get gas and basic supplies also - nothing will be open for a couple of days.
Hurricanes typically hit in summer or early fall - if you came November or December you will miss them, and will also be able to enjoy the best weather.
Southeast Florida tends to be hit by a hurricane every four years or so. We've had 41 hurricanes during the period 1851-2004. Major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) occur less frequently. We've had 15 during that same time period.
On average, we receive about 60 inches of rain annually.
Like any city, we have some precipitation most every month, but the wettest months of the year are June, August and September. The driest months are December, January and February.