Before the scale, hurricanes were simply described as major or minor.5 is a good number of levels for stuff. When people try to design three-level alert systems, I try to slip in two more, because I know there are going to be requests for 'Medium High' and 'Medium Low.'
Mr. Saffir's innovation was ranking storm destruction by type, from Category 1 -- where trees and unanchored mobile homes receive the primary damage -- to Category 5 -- the complete failure of roofs and some structures. The five descriptions of destruction were then matched with the sustained wind speeds producing the corresponding damage.
Mr. Simpson said the system helped him communicate the power of an approaching storm.
"We had a lot of requests before the scale: how many resources of what kind would be needed to deal with the storm," Mr. Simpson said during a phone interview earlier this year. "I couldn't tell the Salvation Army, for example, how much and what materials they should be shipping. The scale gave them a much better handle on that."
So, yeah, super useful. Thanks, Mr. Saffir! And Mr. Sampson? I guess we can thank you while you're alive.