All tropical cyclones, no matter what name or category they have have can cause a lot of damage. With that being said, there is a reason why different storms have different classifications. And sometimes it is difficult to know one from another. So in this article we answer a common question, which is what’s the difference: tropical storm vs hurricane. We’ll answer this question and dive into the details below.
Definitions: Tropical Storm vs Hurricane
Below we define these types of storms and give details on each. This will make it easier to compare a tropical storm vs hurricane.
- Tropical cyclone is a class of storms that originates over warm, tropical/subtropical water bodies. They consist of a low pressure center, intense winds, thunderstorms, etc. Tropical cyclones rotate rapidly in a counter clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Tropical storm – a tropical cyclone is a tropical cyclone that has sustained winds of 39 – 73 MPH
- Hurricane – a tropical cyclone that has sustained wind speeds of 74 MPH and up
How Are They Different?
The main difference or determining factor between a tropical storm vs hurricane is the storm’s wind speed. Tropical cyclones are categorized by the Saffir-Simpson wind scale. And according to this scale a tropical cyclone does not become a category 1 hurricane until it reaches sustained wind speeds of 74 MPH or more. So Tropical storms have lower sustained wind speeds vs Hurricanes.
And with that being said the difference between a 73 MPH tropical storm and a 74 MPH category 1 storm is just 1 MPH. So in these cases, the actual differences in wind speeds are minimal.
The other difference between hurricanes vs tropical storms is the potential for damage caused by each storm’s winds. Higher winds have the potential to cause more damage to structures. So hurricane winds have the potential to cause more damage than tropical storm winds due to their winds.
However, it should be noted that the Saffir-Simpson wind scale doesn’t take rains, storm surges and other factors of a tropical cyclone into account. So the wind speeds of a hurricane are stronger and have the potential to cause more damage. But a category 1 hurricane may not necessarily be more destructive than a tropical storm. Why? Because things like flooding, tornadoes and other factors could greatly affect the severity of damage any tropical cyclone causes.
Recent tropical storms to hit Florida were Tropical Storm Elsa and Tropical Storm Fred in 2021 and Tropical Storm Alex in 2022.
Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida in 2018. This was a category 4 hurricane that had peak winds at 140 MPH.
Get Protection for any SWFL Tropical Cyclones
You should prepare your home and family, regardless of if its a tropical storm or a hurricane. Both categories of tropical cyclone have potential to cause damage to your home and business. We recommend putting up your storm panels and deploying your storm shutters for any tropical cyclone, including tropical storms.
Eurex Shutters can help you with any and all questions about storm protection for your Southwest Florida home. We have been manufacturing, installing and repairing hurricane shutters and impact glass in SWFL for 35+ years.
- Tropical Cyclone Climatology – National Hurricane Center
- What is a Tropical Cyclone? – Bureau of Meteorology
- Tropical Cyclone – Wikipedia
- Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale – National Hurricane Center