Planning a getaway to the US East Coast or the Caribbean? You may be concerned about the risk of a hurricane disrupting your trip. Here's a primer on hurricane season.
Last year experts correctly predicted an average or above-average number of hurricanes in 2016.
When is 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 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.
What's typical? 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 major hurricanes category 3 or higher with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. (Learn more about how hurricanes are defined.)
Should we focus on the number of storms? Yes and no. The only storms most of us need to worry about are those that actually make landfall, which can have little correlation to 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 US that year.
Until its lucky streak ended in 2016, Florida been hurricane-free for a decade. Historically, North and South Carolina get many fewer landfallling hurricanes than Florida. And curiously, Georgia—which lies between Florida and the Carolinas—gets the fewest of any of them.
What does it mean for my 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 cancelled 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.
How can I stay 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.
Predictions for Hurricane Season 2017
Major forecasters have weighed in with their official predictions for hurricane season 2017:
- NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is predicting a 70 percent chance of an "above-normal" season with 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes.
- North Carolina State University's Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is forecasting a normal hurricane season with 11 to 15 named storms, four to six hurricanes, and one to three major hurricanes.
- Accuweather has predicted a slightly less active-than-normal season, with 10 named storms, five hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
- The Weather Channel is predicting a normal season, with 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes.
- Colorado State University has also predicted a year that is slightly less active than typical, with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
- Tropical Storm Risk from the University College London predicts an average season, with 14 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
- Global Weather Oscillations Inc. (GWO) is predicting an active year with 16 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes.
Recap of Hurricane Season 2016
Keep in mind that a typical year will bring 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
The year 2016 was a slightly above-average season that produced a total of 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Here is how forecasters fared with their predictions for the 2016 season.
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) was right on the money, having predicted a "near-normal" season with 10 to 16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes, including one to four major hurricanes.
North Carolina State University's Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences was also very accurate, having forecasted a busy hurricane season with 15 to 18 named storms, 8 to 11 hurricanes, and three to five becoming major hurricanes.
Accuweather predicted a slightly more active-than-normal season, with 14 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes.
The Weather Channel predicted a slightly more active season than usual, with 14 named storms, eight hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
Colorado State University predicted a typical year, with 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Tropical Storm Risk from the University College London predicted an average season, with 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes.
Global Weather Oscillations Inc. (GWO) predicted a very active year with 17 named storms, nine hurricanes, and four major hurricanes.