A hurricane is a powerful tropical storm that develops over water and sometimes comes ashore, bringing massive flooding and devastating winds to vulnerable coastlines. Florida's location between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean makes it particularly susceptible to hurricanes, and travelers need to be prepared if visiting the Sunshine State during hurricane season in case one makes landfall.
Hurricane season in Florida typically lasts from June 1 through November 30, although it's not uncommon for tropical storms to form as early as May. Three-fourths of all storms in Florida occur between August and October, with September being the peak month for storm activity.
Most storms start in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico and, on average, one to two hurricanes and various tropical storms make landfall on the eastern coast of the U.S. every year. Florida is by far the most hurricane-prone state in the country, with nearly twice as many recorded hurricanes in history as the second most affected state, which is Texas.
If you're planning a trip to Florida this August, September, or October, you should be especially cautious when visiting coastal cities. As an added precaution, you can download the Hurricane app from the American Red Cross to get up-to-date information on current tropical storm movement that may affect your trip.
What Hurricane Season Means for Vacation Plans
While it's unlikely that you will be visiting Florida during a hurricane, if you're planning a trip between August and November, you might consider reserving a room at a hotel that offers a hurricane guarantee or paying a little extra for travel insurance on your flights. This way, even if a weather-related emergency cancels your plans, you'll get a full refund or equivalent rescheduling.
You should also keep in mind that it doesn't take a hurricane making landfall to limit your vacation. A hurricane in the nearby Caribbean that doesn't pass directly over Florida can still cause choppy water, strong winds, and rainy weather. And even tropical storms that don't qualify as "hurricanes" can still cause a lockdown or evacuations if the storm conditions warrant them.
You should pack rain gear and an umbrella when visiting Florida in late summer, since thunderstorms are common across the state. But if a tropical storm or hurricane does emerge, you should have at least a general idea of what to do and how to stay safe so you aren't overwhelmed when the storm hits. If you're unable to evacuate, you'll want to shelter in place. Create a disaster kit as soon as possible so each traveler has three days worth of drinking water and non-perishable food items, plus batteries, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a cellphone.
Predictions for the 2020 Season
A number of meteorological organizations and weather stations often issue predictions on how they expect the upcoming hurricane season to pan out based on data from previous years. Just like any other weather prediction, these forecasts offer a rough idea of what's to come but should never be taken as fact. A tropical storm can pop up at any time—and with little warning—so it's important to be alert.
The Weather Company predicts a more active hurricane season for 2020 with 20 named storms, including eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) anticipates the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Activity to "be 30% above the long-term norm."
Accuweather forecasters are predicting "an above-normal season" with 14–20 tropical storms, of which seven to 11 are predicted to become hurricanes. These numbers were updated in May 2020 after an early start to the season made the original forecast too low.
Recent Hurricane History in Florida
In 2019, the Atlantic hurricane season was again significantly more active than normal and was the fourth consecutive year of above-average and especially damaging storms. Even though the 2019 season continued the trend of intensifying storms, Florida was spared the worst and suffered relatively little damage throughout the year. However, the good fortunes of 2019 follow Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Michael in 2018, each of which were one of the most powerful and deadliest storms to make landfall in Florida in the last century.