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How Often Do Hurricanes Hit Florida?

Most experts predict a tame hurricane season for 2014

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HurricaneWilma_FCC_FlaKeysPubLib.jpg

The aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, October 2005

Florida Keys Public Libraries/Flickr Creative Commons

Florida is on a winning streak. Coming into the 2014 hurricane season, Florida has gone a record eight years without a landfalling hurricane of category 3 or higher. And most experts are predicting a tamer-than-usual hurricane season for 2014.

Last year's Atlantic hurricane season was the least active since 1982. The last major hurricane to hit Florida was Hurricane Wilma in 2005. 

Planning a getaway in Florida? Here's what you should know about hurricane season.

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.

What does a typical hurricane season look like? Based on historical weather records dating back to 1950, the Atlantic region will typically experience 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. It's important to note that most of these hurricanes do not make landfall in the United States.

How many hurricanes typically hit Florida? On average, one to two hurricanes (or more specifically, 1.75 hurricanes) make landfall on the US East coast every year. Of those, 40 percent hit Florida. Since 1851, 37 hurricanes have made direct hits on Florida.

There is little to no correlation between the total number of storms and those that make landfall 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.

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 between June and October, you might consider buying travel insurance. 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.

What do experts say about hurricane season 2014? The experts are not in agreement. Depending on who you ask, this year's hurricane season could be quieter than normal, about average, or stronger than usual. In other words, it's anyone's guess. Here's a rundown of predictions that have been made so far, starting with the most optimistic forecast:

  • Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project is forecasting a quiet 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, predicting that nine tropical storms will form, with three becoming full-fledged hurricanes. Track record: Meh. USA Today reported that, since 2000, the Colorado State University team has been reasonable accurate--coming within two hurricanes--only five out of 13 times. It's also coming off two consecutive years of getting it wrong. In 2012, there were more than twice as many hurricanes as predicted, and in 2013, there were only two hurricanes when nine were originally predicted. 
  • The Weather Channel also anticipates a hurricane season that's just a tad quieter than normal, with 11 named tropical storms, including five that become hurricanes, of which two will become major hurricanes.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that a near-normal or below-normal hurricane season is likely this year. NOAA parses out its forecast with a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season (defineed as nine or fewer named storms, four or fewer hurricanes, and one or fewer major hurricanes), a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.
  • A team at North Carolina State University's Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is predicting eight to 11 named storms, with four to six may growing strong enough to become hurricanes, and one to three that may become major hurricanes.
  • Global Weather Oscillations Inc. (GWO), says the 2014 hurricane season will be stronger and more dangerous than last year, with 17 named tropical storms, eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Track record: Very good. GWO is the only organization that correctly predicted the weak 2013 season.

 

Last update: July 1, 2014

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