Planning a beach getaway in Florida? Or a summer vacation in the Caribbean? Here's what you should know about 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.
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.
What do experts say about hurricane season 2014? Sigh. 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.
- 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.
Watch this space; the National Hurricane Center will issue its own hurricane forecast in May.
Last update: April 18, 2014