When planning a getaway to the East Coast of the United States or the Caribbean, you may be concerned about the risk of a hurricane disrupting your trip. Information and facts about hurricane season will give you something to think about when you plan your trip, and perhaps even re-schedule if you find you'll be traveling in the midst of hurricane season.
About 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, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes coming from the Atlantic can impact vacations on the Southeast coast, all of Florida, and along the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to Texas.
Based on historical weather records dating back to 1950, a typical year will bring 12 tropical storms with sustained winds of 39 mph, of which six turn into hurricanes with winds reaching 74 mph or greater, and three become major hurricanes termed Category 3 or higher with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
Focusing on the Number of Storms
The number of storms isn't always a good indicator of the severity of hurricane season. The only storms most people need to worry about are those that actually make landfall, which can have little correlation with the total number of storms in any given season. For example, 2010 was an extremely busy season, with 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes. Yet no hurricane and only one tropical storm made landfall in the U.S. that year.
Until a lucky streak ended in 2016, Florida had been hurricane-free for a decade. Historically, North and South Carolina get many fewer hurricanes making landfall than Florida. And curiously, Georgia—which lies between Florida and the Carolinas—gets the fewest of any of them. Places like Jamaica are vulnerable to hurricanes.
Hurricanes and Your Vacation Plans
Statistically, there is a very low risk that a storm will impact your vacation. Still, if you're planning to vacation in Florida, the Gulf Coast, or the Caribbean during hurricane season, you might consider buying travel insurance or opting for a hotel with a hurricane guarantee. Typically, if your trip is canceled or interrupted due to a storm, you can be refunded up to the limit of coverage. Note that in most cases, insurance must be purchased more than 24 hours before a hurricane is named.
Vacation Destinations Where You Can Avoid Hurricanes
You can still get that warm beach getaway during hurricane season. Florida is not always the target of damaging storms. On average, one to two hurricanes make landfall on the eastern coast of America every year, and of those, only 40 percent hit Florida. While nowhere along the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast of Florida is completely safe, some areas such as Orlando and Naples are hit less often than others.
In the Caribbean, the risk of hurricanes varies widely throughout the area. It is said that Aruba, which lies on the southern edge of the hurricane belt, is a safe bet since only six hurricanes have passed even near the island over the past 140 years. The islands of the southernmost Caribbean—such as Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Bonaire, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago—rarely ever get hit by hurricanes. And the islands of the Western Caribbean are less likely to be affected by hurricanes than other areas of the Caribbean.
Staying on Top of Hurricane Warnings
If you're traveling to a hurricane-prone destination, download the Hurricane app from the American Red Cross for storm updates and a slew of helpful features. It is also wise to check weather reports for the areas where you plan to vacation.
Recap of Hurricane Season 2018
In 2018, the Atlantic hurricane season was significantly more active than average and was the third in a consecutive series of above-average and damaging seasons.
In September, Hurricane Florence got its start on September 1, forming just off the coast of West Africa. On its nearly two-week trajectory across the Atlantic, Florence strengthened to a Category 4 storm before making landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane. But the category didn't tell the story. The rain from the storm soaked the area, dropping nearly 40 inches of rain in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, causing widespread flooding that took weeks to recede. At least 55 deaths were attributed to the storm.
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.
Most forecasting organizations predicted that the 2018 Hurricane Season would be a below-average season because of cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and the expected development of an El Niño. However, the anticipated El Niño failed to develop in time to suppress storm activity.