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Hurricane vs. Tropical Storm: What’s the Difference?

If you live anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, you've likely encountered your fair share of thunderous storms and intense rainfall. Thunderstorms are especially common during the summer. However, as the seasons begin to change, this area becomes prone to tropical storms and hurricanes.  

Both these meteorological events are known for bringing strong winds and rain. Those similarities leave many wondering, “What's the difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm?” Read on for an in-depth look at what makes each storm unique.  Naples Shutter Hurricane vs Tropical Storm

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

During the late summer and early fall months, the warm ocean water and increased evaporation fuel thunderstorm activity over the ocean. As the thunderstorm moves, a low-pressure system forms, sucking in massive amounts of air and intensifying storm activity.  

Eventually, this weather system may grow into a tropical storm or a hurricane. So what's the difference between a hurricane and a tropical storm? Let's dive in and find out.  

Wind Speed 

Technically speaking, there is only a one-mile-per-hour difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane. When a tropical depression reaches wind speeds of 39 MPH, it becomes a tropical storm.  

As the tropical storm strengthens and speeds up, it officially becomes a category 1 hurricane when its maximum wind speed reaches 74 MPH. If the wind speed continues to increase, it may be upgraded to a:  

  • Category 2 storm at 96 MPH 
  • Category 3 storm at 111 MPH 
  • Category 4 storm at 130 MPH 
  • Category 5 storm at 157 MPH 

In general, hurricanes are considered to be major once they reach the category 3 classification.  

Storm Structure  

Another major difference between hurricanes and tropical storms is their overall structure. Hurricanes have a defined circular shape. They also possess a distinct structure containing bands of intense thunderstorms and a calm central eye. 

In contrast, tropical storms are essentially large thunderstorms. They lack any kind of real organization or central eye. 


Both hurricanes and tropical storms are known to produce significant rainfall. However, hurricanes tend to bring heavier rains due to their size.  

Additionally, the high-speed winds of a hurricane can create storm surges that worsen flooding in coastal areas. Lastly, once hurricanes make landfall, they tend to slow down, allowing for rain to fall for a longer period of time. 

Potential for Damage 

Another important difference between hurricanes and tropical storms is the damage they cause. Hurricanes tend to cause more serious property damage, storm surges, and uprooted trees due to their stronger winds. That said, a strong tropical storm may be capable of doing more water-related damage than a small category 1 hurricane that quickly passes over. 

Protect Your Home from Extreme Weather 

If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, it's important to protect your property to prevent damage during a storm. At Naples Shutter, we can help you shore up your defenses with a number of hurricane protection solutions. Contact us today to learn more about our hurricane fabric and shutters. 

Topics: Hurricane Season

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