Hurricane Irma reaches Category 5; what does that mean?

See video of potential Category 5 hurricane damage

SAN ANTONIO – Hurricane Irma strengthened into a Category 5 Tuesday, with winds up to 180 mph.

Winds must be greater than 157 mph for a hurricane to be considered a Category 5.

Category 5 hurricanes are capable of causing waves as high as an eight-story building, along with powerful storm surges.

“Hurricane Irma is now the strongest hurricane on record in the Atlantic, outside of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, according to the National Hurricane Center,” said meteorologist Justin Horne.  “It will likely hold its strength, too, as conditions remain favorable for the powerful hurricane.”

Look back at major hurricanes, tropical storms in Texas

Only three Category 5 hurricanes have ever made landfall in the U.S.

The first was Sept. 3, 1935, on Labor Day, which killed 408 people. The hurricane hit the Florida Keys with winds up to 185 mph, according to 


Hurricane Camille killed 256 people in August 1969 with winds up to 175 mph, according to 

The third Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Hurricane Andrew hit southern Florida and made it all the way to Louisiana, causing $26.5 billion in damage, according to

“Hurricane Irma’s winds of 180 mph put it in an elite category of storms,” said Horne.

The U.S. didn’t start naming storms until 1953. Originally, storms had female names and male names didn’t come into the mix until 1978.

The video below illustrates the damage sustained by a house and trees, with increasing intensity based on wind speeds.


About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.