(CNN) -

Here's a look at what you need to know about the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

Facts: The National Weather Service defines a hurricane as "an intense tropical weather system with well-defined circulation and sustained winds of 74mph (64 knots) or higher."

The peak of the season is from mid-August to late October.

In the Western Northern Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons.

Similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called cyclones.

Hurricanes are rated according to intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

The 1-5 scale estimates potential property damage.

A Category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane.

A hurricane watch indicates the possibility that a region could experience hurricane conditions within 48 hours.

A hurricane warning indicates that tropical-storm-force winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 36 hours.

Hurricane Development: There are three stages of development: tropical depression to tropical storm to hurricane.

Tropical depression - when a cluster of thunderstorms organizes under the right atmospheric conditions for a long enough time, with winds near the center constantly between 20 and 34 knots (23 - 39 mph).

Tropical storm - a tropical depression that has intensified to the point where its maximum sustained winds are between 35-64 knots (39-73 mph). During this time, the storm itself becomes more organized and begins to become more circular in shape -- resembling a hurricane. This is when the storm is named.

Hurricane - develops from a tropical storm as surface pressures continue to drop, and sustained wind speeds reach 64 knots (74 mph), with a pronounced rotation developing around the central core.

Hurricane Categories: From NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane's present intensity.

It estimates potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall.

Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale.

Category One Hurricane Winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 km/hr).

Storm surge generally 4-5 ft above normal.

No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees.

Some damage to poorly constructed signs and coastal road flooding with minor pier damage.

Category Two Hurricane Winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt or 154-177 km/hr).

Storm surge is generally 6-8 feet above normal.

Some roofing material, door, and window damage of buildings. Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees with some trees blown down. Considerable damage to mobile homes, poorly constructed signs, and piers.