It's impossible to predict when, exactly, a hurricane is going to hit, but there is a particular stretch of summer when they're most likely. Unfortunately 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 Georgia and how these summer storms can affect their trips.
Even meteorologists are often surprised by how much stronger or weaker a hurricane can be than originally predicted. Take Hurricane Michael, for instance. Classified as a Category 3 storm when it moved into southwest Georgia on October 10, 2018, it proved to be far more destructive than planned for, 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.
When Is Atlantic Hurricane Season?
Hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin starts on June 1 and ends on November 30, with early August through late October being its peak. The Atlantic Basin is composed of the entire Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center documents an average of 12 hurricanes—cyclones whose maximum sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour—per year in the Atlantic Basin. The vast majority of them don't even make landfall.
How Often Do Hurricanes Hit Georgia?
On average, only one to two hurricanes make landfall on the U.S. East Coast every year. Of those, 7 percent hit Georgia. Florida sees the most of any state, 40 percent, while North Carolina sees 16 percent, according to the NOAA. Since 1851, only 20 hurricanes have made direct hits on Georgia, so your vacation is probably safe.
There is little to no correlation between the total number of storms and those that make landfall during any given season. Hurricane season in 2010, for example, was an extremely busy year with 19 named storms and 12 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 with maximum sustained wind speeds of 161 mph, 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.
What Precautions Should You Be Taking on Vacation?
Based on statistics dating back to the 19th century, your week-long beach vacation to Jekyll Island is not likely to be impacted by a hurricane. If you're apt to cover all bases, though, then maybe you should consider purchasing a 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.
Travelers to hurricane-prone coasts should have the American Red Cross' hurricane app pre-downloaded on their phones. This nifty resource is useful for storm updates and a slew of other helpful features.
Overall, though, try to 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; it's guaranteed to be easier on the budget and less crowded, too.
Hurricane Season 2019 Prediction
The current season is shaping up to be slightly above normal, according to the NOAA. Between 10 and 17 named storms are likely to develop in the Atlantic between early June and late November, according to data that was updated on August 8. Of those, five to nine are forecast to become hurricanes and roughly half will predictably fall under the "major" category. Predictions for specific regions—the Golden Isles, say—aren't forecast until a storm actually moves their way.