Like all Caribbean islands that lie within the Atlantic hurricane belt, Jamaica is quite vulnerable to hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season in 2018 became the third in a consecutive series of damaging and higher than average seasons. However, Jamaica was largely left untouched by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which swept through the Caribbean in 2017, killing thousands and causing billions of dollars in damage.
But it's important to note that travel plans to Jamaica are sometimes affected by hurricanes, either when the outskirts of storms have brushed the island or when a hurricane inflicted a more targeted strike. Hurricane Sandy did just that in 2012, when the storm roared past Jamaica before causing tremendous devastation in the United States.
Timing of Hurricane Season
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak period from early August through the end of October. The Atlantic Basin includes the entire Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes can, and do, strike in all areas of this body of water.
A Typical Hurricane Season
Based on historical weather records dating back to 1850, the Atlantic Basin will typically experience 12 tropical storms annually with sustained winds of 39 mph, six of which become hurricanes with winds reaching 74 mph or greater. Three of these will become major hurricanes rated as Category 3 or higher with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. It's important to note that the vast majority of these hurricanes do not make landfall in Jamaica.
How Often Do Hurricanes Hit Jamaica?
On average, a hurricane passes near Jamaica every four years. A hurricane makes a direct hit on Jamaica every 11 years, on average. Much more common during the summer and fall are tropical storms that do not meet the threshold for a hurricane classification but still bring high winds and potential flooding.
What Does It Mean for My Vacation Plans?
Statistically, the chances of a hurricane or tropical storm hitting Jamaica during your visit are very slim. Still, there are choices you can make to lower the risk of a hurricane disrupting your vacation.
Three out of four hurricanes and tropical storms occur between August and October, and storm activity peaks in early to mid-September. Booking a getaway in June, July, or November is statistically a safer bet.
If you're traveling during hurricane season—especially during the peak August-to-October period—it is recommended that you buy travel insurance that covers hurricanes. Note that in most cases, you must purchase insurance more than 24 hours before a hurricane is named. Such insurance is inexpensive and will protect your investment should you need to cancel flights or hotel reservations. Usually, if your trip is delayed or canceled due to a storm, you'll get a refund up to the limit of coverage. Also, many hotels and airlines will offer a rescheduled itinerary or a refund if a hurricane interrupts your planned vacation.
If you're traveling to a hurricane-prone area during the risky season, download the hurricane app from the American Red Cross for storm updates and many useful features such as locations of Red Cross shelters and location-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alerts that keep you informed should the forecast predict storms.