FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As Hurricane Ian blasted the western Florida coastline as a strong Category 4 hurricane, the damage potential becomes enormous. The now tropical storm is forecast to make a third landfall in the Southeast later this week.
A study by the National Weather Service finds that damage potential in hurricanes, be it from wind, flooding rains, storm surge and tornadoes, rises exponentially as the wind speeds increase.
As a hurricane jumps in category along the Saffir-Simpson scale, its potential for damage rises eight-fold, according to the NWS. As you jump multiple categories and climb toward the higher categories, the damage potential could rise into hundreds of times greater than a Category 1 hurricane.
With Hurricane Ian having estimated 150 mph winds along its eye wall, the storm has 256-times more potential for damage than a Category 1 storm with 75 mph wind.
And that multiplier is factored over damage caused by a 75-mph hurricane, not just calm wind.
But even small changes in hurricane strength can make for dramatic increases in damage. A 95-mph hurricane has seven times the damage potential as a 75-mph storm. A 10 mph increase from 100 to 110 mph doubles the damage potential, the NWS said.
"Do not be lulled into complacency if you hear of a small increase in wind speed from a hurricane," the NWS wrote. "These small increases directly lead to increasingly greater damage potential."