Hurricanes in North and South Carolina

Hurricane Matthew in New Bern, NC
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Since North Carolina and South Carolina lie on the Eastern Seaboard, they are often affected by hurricanes, especially during the busy Atlantic hurricane season. While both states are considerably less vulnerable to hurricanes than Florida—since their coasts are also considerably shorter—you should still make sure to prepare for severe weather if you're planning a coastal getaway to the Carolinas from June through November during the hurricane season.

Atlantic Hurricane Season in the Carolinas

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year, but 96 percent of all Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes take place during the peak period from mid-August through mid-October. Storms thrive over the warm and tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, with Florida by far receiving more direct hurricane hits than any other state (partly due to its long coastline).

But many Atlantic hurricanes often work their way north, and North and South Carolina are the third and fifth-most affected states in the country, respectively. In fact, even though Georgia sits between Florida and South Carolina, hurricanes strike Georgia less often than South Carolina due to cooler ocean temperatures off its coast.

Since hurricanes need warm water to survive, the coastal cities of the Carolinas are most vulnerable to powerful storms, including Charleston and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina and the Outer Banks and Wilmington in North Carolina. In 2018, Hurricane Florence was a Category 4 storm that formed over the Atlantic Ocean and went hurdling towards the Carolinas. Although the storm weakened to a Category 1 hurricane by the time it made landfall, it was still powerful enough to cause 54 deaths and nearly $25 billion in damage, the brunt of which was suffered by North and South Carolina.

How Hurricanes Affect Your Travel Plans

Statistically, there is a very low risk that a storm will impact your vacation. Some years, however, are worse than others, and it's hard to predict the exact number of storms that will reach the coasts in any given year.

If you're planning a vacation to the coast of North or South Carolina between June and November, carefully read the terms of your accommodation's hurricane policy before booking. Some hotels allow guests to change the reservation for another date if canceling due to a storm, while others are much more strict and don't allow new bookings or refunds.

You also might want to consider buying hurricane or travel insurance. 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, so you can't purchase the insurance once you realize a storm is already on its way.

Stay on Top of Storm Warnings

If you're traveling to North Carolina, South Carolina, or any other hurricane-prone destination, download the Hurricane app from the American Red Cross for storm updates and a slew of helpful features. You can also follow weather updates from The Weather Channel, Accuweather, and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), among others.

When traveling to the coasts of North and South Carolina during the Atlantic hurricane season, be sure to check the weather forecast before you head to the beach for the day. Additionally, keep your cell phone's volume on and emergency alerts activated—even when you're at the beach—in case the forecast suddenly changes.

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