It's impossible to predict exactly when hurricanes are going to hit, but they are most likely to occur in a particular stretch of summer. For beachgoers, that window begins right in the middle of vacation season. Before booking a trip to the Atlantic coast, travelers should know how often hurricanes hit the state of Georgia and how these summer storms can affect their stay.
Even meteorologists are often surprised by how much stronger or weaker a hurricane can be than originally predicted. Hurricane Michael was classified as a Category 3 storm when it moved into southwest Georgia on October 10, 2018, but it proved to be far more destructive, becoming the first major hurricane to hit the state since the late 1800s.
These tropical cyclones are notoriously unpredictable, which makes planning a trip around them problematic, but that shouldn't deter anyone from visiting the pristine beaches of the Southeast U.S.
When Is the Atlantic Hurricane Season?
Hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin starts on June 1 and ends on November 30, with a peak from early August through late October. The Atlantic Basin is composed of the entire Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center documents an average of 12 hurricanes—tropical storms whose maximum sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour—per year in the Atlantic Basin. A vast majority of them don't even make landfall.
What Precautions Should You Be Taking on Vacation?
Based on statistics dating back to the 19th century, your weeklong beach vacation to Jekyll Island is not likely to be impacted by a hurricane. If you're apt to cover all bases, though, you may consider purchasing travel insurance that provides refunds in light of natural disasters.
Keep your eye on weather reports for your destination during the days and weeks leading up to your departure to avoid arriving (and perhaps getting stuck) in a bad storm.
It is a good idea for travelers to hurricane-prone coasts to have the American Red Cross' hurricane app on their phones. This nifty resource provides storm updates and a slew of other helpful features.
If possible, plan your trip in the off-season. Not only will a springtime visit to the Georgia shore be less likely to spit you out into a raging cyclone, but it's guaranteed to be easier on the budget and less crowded.
How Often Do Hurricanes Hit Georgia?
Since 1851, only 22 hurricanes have made direct hits on Georgia, so your vacation is probably safe. On average, only one to two hurricanes make landfall on the U.S. East Coast every year. Florida sees the most hurricanes in the U.S.; the storms also affect Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and other states.
There is little to no correlation between the total number of storms and those that make landfall during any given season. For example, the 2010 hurricane season was an extremely busy year with 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes, and five major hurricanes. However, no hurricane and only one tropical storm made landfall in the U.S. during that time.
Hurricanes do sometimes cause damage after they've settled a bit, though. In October of 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle, causing catastrophic damage. It was classified as a Category 3 storm by the time it moved to southwest Georgia, but still cut through the countryside in a northeast arc while downing trees and power lines in its path.
In August and September of 2019, Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, destroyed thousands of homes and caused about 77 deaths in the Bahamas. The strongest storm in Atlantic history, Dorian hit many parts of the eastern Caribbean then downgraded to a Category 2, reaching Florida, North and South Carolina, and Canada. Other than power outages, Georgia escaped the hurricane's effects.
Hurricane Season 2020 Predictions
Meteorological organizations and weather stations often predict how they expect the next hurricane season to look based on data from previous years. The NOAA's Climate Prediction Center forecasted an especially active hurricane season for the Atlantic coast in 2020, noting a possible 19 to 25 named storms, up to 11 of which could become hurricanes. According to its predictions, up to six of those had the potential to become major hurricanes. A record nine tropical storms hit the Atlantic coast by August 1, 2020, and 13 had formed before September.