Hurricane Irma: What is the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale?

Florida is preparing for potential damage from Hurricane Irma as the Category 4 storm continues its path toward the state. 

"The storm is bigger, faster and stronger than Hurricane Andrew," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday, referring to the devastating Category 5 storm that made landfall over the southern part of the state in 1992. On Monday, Scott declared a state of emergency for Florida.

"Do not focus on the exact path of this storm," he said. "A storm of this size could have effects statewide and everyone must be prepared."

Hurricane Irma is located about 450 miles southeast of Miami, and about 80 miles northeast of Cuba, the National Hurricane Center said Friday morning.

The storm is headed west-northwest at 16 mph with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph and is currently moving between the central Bahamas and the north coast of Cuba.

The storm was increasingly likely to rip into heavily populated South Florida early Sunday, prompting officials to impose mandatory evacuation orders for parts of the Miami metro area and the Florida Keys.

Forecasters said Irma could punish the entire Atlantic coast of Florida and rage on into Georgia and South Carolina. The Keys and parts of South Florida were placed under a hurricane watch Thursday.

Hurricanes are categorized using what’s known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Below is a look at each of the five categories in the scale and what the ratings mean.

Category 1, sustained winds of 74 - 95 mph

For storms in this category, there’s going to be “some damage” from winds, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) says.

Large tree branches and shallow trees could be knocked down, according to the agency. Gutters, roofs, shingles and vinyl siding for what it calls “well-constructed frame homes” could be affected, as well. 

Category 2, sustained winds of 96 - 110 mph

“Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage,” the NHC warns for such storms.

There may be power outages “that could last from several days to weeks,” as well as major damage to roofs and home sidings, the agency says. 

Category 3, sustained winds of 111 - 129 mph

Category 3, Category 4 and Category 5 storms are all labeled “major” hurricanes.

With Category 3, there will be “devastating” damage, according to the NHC.

“Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends,” it warns. There also will be no water or electricity for days to weeks after the storm moves along, it says.

Category 4, sustained winds of 130 - 156 mph

For both Category 4 and Category 5 storms, “catastrophic” damage is forecast. They can see residential areas isolated by trees and power poles that have come down. Power outages can last weeks and months, the agency says.

Category 5, sustained winds of 157 mph or above

This is the highest rating for hurricanes in the scale. “A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse,” according to the NHC.

Fox News' Travis Fedschun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.