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Florida Hurricane Season - Overview for Travelers

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Tropical Storm Gordon, Miami, FL Scott B Smith Photography/Photolibrary/Getty Images

See: Hurricane Season 2014: Predictions from Experts

Every year, families are tempted to seek beaches and bargains in Florida (and Mexico and the Caribbean) during that long stretch of months from June to November which is officially Hurricane Season.

The vast majority of these travelers enjoy good times untroubled by bad weather; in fact, summer's a peak time for tourists to visit Florida. Still, there are dozens of named hurricanes in the Atlantic region every year, and each one disrupts weather in a wide radius. So it's good to know some background...

Does Florida Get a Lot of Hurricanes?

  • More storms hit Florida than any other US state. Looking at the years from 1851 to 2004, for hurricanes of Category 3 and higher: Florida had 35 hurricanes; Texas, 19; Georgia, 3; Alabama, 6. (From the National Hurricane Center).
  • Typically, at least one named storm makes landfall in Florida every season.
  • Some areas of Florida may be as risky as the Caribbean islands. The chances of Miami being hit by a hurricane is "higher than anywhere in the Caribbean" (--see article at About.com's Caribbean Travel website.)
  • the period from August to October is the height of the hurricane season in Florida. Remember, though, that Mother Nature isn't reading any calendars.
  • For Floridians, hurricane preparedness is part of life. For example, read the Hurricane Survival Guide at the Orlando Sentinel newspaper site.
Do Visitors Travel to Florida during Hurricane Season?

Absolutely! And they travel to the Caribbean islands, too. The chances of your particular vacation spot being affected by a horrendous storm during the days of your visit are small. In fact, as noted earlier, summer's a peak travel season in Florida. Also, state and local governments are well aware of the importance of tourism to Florida's economy, and they closely monitor any developing storm activity and anticipate impacts for visitors.

Note too, that Orlando -- the state's tourism powerhouse-- is in central Florida, more than an hour away from either the Gulf Coast or the Atlantic Coast.

Orlando

For millions of family vacationers, Orlando is the destination in Florida, and fortunately its distance from both coasts gives some protection from storms. Still, Orlando has had some action over the years. 2004's Hurricane Charley, for instance, whipped through central Florida and even shut down Walt Disney World for a short while. See an overview of Orlando's hurricane history over the past 140 years.

Walt Disney World and Hurricanes

Since the Magic Kingdom theme park opened in 1971, Disney World theme parks have only closed completely due to storms on two occasions*: in 1999 for Hurricane Floyd, and for Charley in 2004.

Walt Disney World has a Hurricane Policy that deals with cancellation of vacations etc.

The excellent Mousesaver.com site -- which has moneysaving tips about Disney World-- advises: "It's super-important to buy insurance if you will be visiting Walt Disney World on a package vacation during peak hurricane season (roughly the months of August and September). Don't underestimate the potential of hurricanes to create major problems even in an inland location like Orlando. Walt Disney World was directly affected by two hurricanes in 2004 (Frances and Jeanne) and one in 2005 (Wilma). Two hotels located on Disney property (but not operated by Disney) were virtually destroyed by the 2004 storms..."

Personally, my family has enjoyed two trips to Florida in late August without a thought about weather (except "hot")... But doubtless it's better to be safe than sorry!

Some Years are Worse than Others

2004, for instance, was a big year for Florida hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne hit the Florida coast, causing over 20 deaths plus more than $40 billion in damage. 2007, meanwhile, saw three tornadoes sweep across central Florida with several fatalities.

Tips for Travelers Visiting Florida during Hurricane Season
  • check hurricane policies and weather guarantees offered by your resort or vacation packager.
  • find out more about how an evacuation would be experienced by visitors, at the Florida Keys site. Visitors, for example, may be asked to leave the area for a Category 1 storm, while residents are not evacuated unless the storm is Category 3 or higher.
Visitors can check Florida storm action -- past, and present-- at OrlandoHurricane.net.

*At time of writing in 2012.

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