ATLANTA -- Categories are the key to understanding just how severe a hurricane actually is – something that’s essential with tracking a major storm.

The Saffir-Simpson scale is how those categories work. In short, it places hurricanes in five classifications. The weakest of these includes hurricanes with winds as slow as 74 mph. Meanwhile, a Category 5 hurricane has winds over 156 miles per hours.

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In addition to wind speeds, these storms can create different amounts of storm surge based on their category. The largest of them have a surge of over 18 feet.

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Category 3 and up have the highest potential for storm-related damage and loss of life, with that category being considered “devastating” and the two above it being labeled “catastrophic.”

Hurricane Michael moved up to Category 3 Tuesday afternoon and was expected to remain at the same level when making landfall.