What’s the Difference Between a Tropical Storm and Hurricane? - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Sep 1, 2023

What’s the Difference Between a Tropical Storm and Hurricane?


Learn the Difference Between a Tropical Storm and Hurricane, & How to Prepare Your Property!


When summer comes to an end, it is common for homeowners in the south to prepare their house and property for the Atlantic hurricane season. And while New Yorkers are generally spared from the worst of hurricane season, hurricanes and tropical storms can travel up the coastline and pose serious threats to people and property.


According to the National Weather Service, New York State experienced seven tropical storms and hurricanes that were deemed significant weather events between 2012 and 2022. With significant weather events on the rise according to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, it’s important for homeowners to understand the forecast and what preparations to make in the event of severe weather. Continue reading to learn about the difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm, as well as preparation tips if your area is affected!


What’s the Difference Between a Hurricane & Tropical Storm?


Meteorologists categorize a tropical storm based on its maximum sustained wind speed using what is called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS). Cyclones with wind speeds between 74 to 95 mph are deemed as Category 1 hurricanes, between 96 to 110 mph as Category 2 hurricanes, between 111 to 129 mph as Category 3 hurricanes, between 130 to 156 mph as Category 4 hurricanes, and 157 mph or higher as Category 5 hurricanes.

Any cyclone with maximum winds of 39 to 73 mph is considered a tropical storm instead of a hurricane. Both can be extremely dangerous and the difference between a Category 1 hurricane and a tropical storm is only 1 mph.


What Is a Major Hurricane?


While any hurricane can present life-threatening winds, storms that are Category 3 or higher are considered major hurricanes that are capable of inflicting exceptional damage.


What Is a Tropical Depression?


After a hurricane makes landfall, it will gradually lose power over time before being downgraded to a tropical storm. If a tropical storm’s wind speeds fall below 39 mph, it is then considered a tropical depression.


How Can I Prepare My Home for a Tropical Storm?


Although, New Yorkers may not experience hurricanes to the same degree that residents of warmer coastal states do, it is still important to have a plan in the event a tropical storm or hurricane does make its way to your area. Here are five steps you can take to prepare for a tropical storm:


  1. Make a Plan: Write down important phone numbers and locate nearby shelters, as well as multiple ways to get there.
  2. Gather Supplies: Have an emergency supply kit complete with food, water, medicine, power sources, important documents, fire extinguisher, clothes, shoes, blankets, and other items that could benefit you in an emergency.
  3. Prepare Your Home: Secure any loose items outside your house that could be blown around. Use storm shutters or board windows to decrease hazards from the possibility of broken glass. Ensure carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms are working.
  4. Stay Informed: Tropical storm and hurricane forecasts can change quickly. Stay up to date on the latest forecast information so that you are ready in case you need to take action.
  5. Be Ready to Evacuate or Shelter in Place: Always act in accordance with advice given by authorities regarding whether you should evacuate your area or shelter in place.


While hurricanes may not be at the top of your list of worries as a resident of New York, past hurricanes and tropical storms demonstrate that they can cause serious destruction even in the northeast. As severe weather events become more common, it’s best to act proactively as a homeowner to protect what matters most to you. Click below to contact an agent today to discuss your coverage options!