How Often Do Hurricanes Hit Cape Cod?

Hurricane Noel Brushes By New England

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Since Massachusetts lies on the Atlantic coast, the state is occasionally affected by hurricanes—although it is far less vulnerable than southeastern states such as Florida and the Carolinas. Water temperatures this far north are much colder than around Florida and the Caribbean, so hurricanes are typically much weaker by the time they reach Massachusetts. However, if a storm does hit the state, it's usually Cape Cod, which juts out into the Atlantic like a chin, and the offshore islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard that bear the brunt of the wind and rain. Statistically, there is a very low risk that a storm will impact your vacation. If you're planning to travel to Cape Cod, Nantucket, or Martha's Vineyard between June and October, the risk may be too small to merit purchasing travel insurance.

When Is Hurricane Season?

Every year, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 with the peak period occurring from early August through the end of October. At this time, the Atlantic basin, which includes the entire Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, is at the highest risk of damage.

Based on historical weather records dating back to 1950, the Atlantic region will typically experience 12 named tropical storms with sustained winds of 39 miles per hour (mph), of which six will turn into hurricanes with winds reaching 74 mph or greater, and three will become major hurricanes, defined as a Category 3 or higher, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

How Many Hurricanes Typically Hit Massachusetts?

On average, one to two hurricanes make landfall on the east coast every year and there is only a 3 percent chance that any will reach Massachusetts. Since 1851, only 10 hurricanes have made direct hits in the state and the region has never taken a direct hit from a Category 4 or 5 storm. The last time a hurricane did major damage in New England was the Category 2 Hurricane Bob in 1991.

Recap of Recent Hurricane Seasons

Keep in mind that even though a typical year brings 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes, there is little to no correlation between the total number of storms and those that make landfall in any given season. For example, 2010 was an extremely busy season, with 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes. Yet no hurricane and only one tropical storm made landfall in the U.S. that year.

The year 2018 had an above-average season that produced a total of 16 named storms and eight hurricanes. Of all of these only Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael made it to Massachusetts, which resulted in some strong gusts and about 5 and 7 inches of rain, respectively. The 2019 season was more active with 20 named storms, six of which became hurricanes. Of these, Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas, eventually reached Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, producing moderate rain and tropical-storm-force winds.

Predictions for the 2020 Hurricane Season

Before the season began, experts had predicted a 60 percent chance of "above-normal" activity with 13 to 20 named storms, six to 10 of those being hurricanes, with the potential of three to six of those to become major hurricanes. By mid-season, nine storms were named, but only one developed into a hurricane, the Category 1 Hurricane Hanna, which veered west into the gulf toward Texas and Mexico.

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