A hurricane is a tropical storm that develops over water and sometimes comes ashore, bringing massive flooding and devasting winds to vulnerable coastlines. While hurricanes aren't really a concern for people living in the central United States, those visiting Florida during hurricane season may need to be prepared in the event one makes landfall.
Hurricane season in Florida typically lasts from June 1 through November 30, but a majority of these storms start forming nearer the end of the season, with September producing the most hurricanes—most of which start in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico.
On average, one to two hurricanes make landfall on the eastern coast of America every year, and of those, only 40 percent hit Florida. In 2018 Hurricane Michael made a direct and catastrophic hit on the Florida Panhandle area.
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.
Recent Hurricanes in Florida
In 2018 the Atlantic hurricane season was again significantly more active than normal and was the third in a consecutive series of above-average and damaging seasons. The formation of Tropical Storm Alberto on May 25 marked the fourth consecutive year in which a storm developed before the official start of the season.
In October of 2018, Michael became the second major hurricane of the season, and it became the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle with maximum sustained wind speeds of 161 mph, causing catastrophic damage from wind and storm surge.
However, prior to 2016, Florida had been on a hurricane-free streak; the Sunshine State had gone a record 11 years without one making landfall. That streak came to an end in September 2016, when Category-1 Hurricane Hermine made landfall before weakening into a tropical storm.
A few weeks later, in October 2016, Category-3 Hurricane Matthew did not make landfall in Florida but spent an entire day churning up the coast just offshore, battering towns, causing several deaths, and leaving over a million Floridians without power.
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 hurricanes don't have to make landfall to put a damper on your summer vacation as even tropical storms bring high winds and heavy rains to Florida coastline. Before you pack for your trip, you should check the latest weather forecasts to plan your clothing and accessories. You might want to pack an umbrella just in case because late summer and early fall is particularly rainy across the state.
Predictions for the 2019 Season
A number of meteorological organizations and weather stations often issue predictions on how they expect the next hurricane season to pan out based on data from previous years. However, these predictions are rarely accurate—especially in volatile years like 2016 and 2017.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): NOAA predicts a “near-normal” 2019 Atlantic hurricane season with up to 15 named storms with winds of at least 39 mph. But, of these, NOAA predicts, four to eight could turn into hurricanes of 74 mph or greater and two to four of these storms could strengthen into major Category 3, 4, or 5 storms. So "normal," doesn't exactly mean quiet.
Accuweather: AccuWeather forecasters are predicting 2019 to result in a near to slightly above-normal season with 12 to 14 storms, with five to seven of those becoming hurricanes, and two to four of those storms having the potential to become major hurricanes.