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What is Expected for Hurricane Season 2014?

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NOAA_HurricaneAtlantic.jpg
National Hurricane Center

Planning a beach getaway in Florida or the Carolinas? Or a summer vacation in the Caribbean? Here's what experts are predicting for hurricane season 2014.

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.

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.

On a lucky streak, Florida has not had a landfalling hurricane in the past eight years. 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 hurricane 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? So far this summer, the East Coast has seen category-2 Hurricane Arthur make landfall in North Carolina and weaken to a post-tropical storm over Nantucket in Massachusetts. 

Depending on whom you ask, the rest of this year's hurricane season could be quieter than normal, about average, or stronger than usual. 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 16, 2014

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