The word tropical is almost synonymous with vacation. But there's one form of "tropical" that's an unwelcome guest while on vacation--tropical weather systems, aka, hurricanes.
While you'll likely check the local weather a thousand times before jet-setting, the thought of checking for tropical cyclones may not enter into your mind until its too late, or perhaps not at all. No matter what stage of travel planning you're in, considering the following will help lessen your chances of experiencing a soggy, inconvenience-filled getaway.
Hurricane Season Dates to Remember
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, however, these dates aren't a hard and fast rule. Tropical activity can begin as soon as early-May and last well into December.
The 3-month period of August, September, and October is considered the busiest. This is when nearly 80% of all tropical cyclones (including over 80% of hurricanes and over 90% of major hurricanes) occur.
Percentage of Named Storms Per Month
Knowing what the odds are of a tropical storm or hurricane forming within a given month can help you make an informed decision about the best time of year to travel. Based on Atlantic hurricane records from 1851-2011, here's a look at how many named storms (tropical storms + hurricanes) form, on average, in each calendar month. Areas where storms are most likely to form and to track are also noted.
- May: Less than 1% of named storms have occurred during the month of May.
- June: 5% of named storms have occurred in June.
These tend to form in the Gulf of Mexico (especially in the Northeast Gulf) as well as offshore of the coastal Carolinas.
- July: 7% of named storms have occurred in July.
July cyclones tend to form in three areas: the central Gulf, offshore of the coastal Carolinas, and near the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Storms originating in the Gulf tend to track north/northwestward towards the Gulf Coast. Those along the East Coast and in the Caribbean generally track northeastward up the Eastern Seaboard.
- August: 23% of named storms have occurred during August.
By August cyclones are capable of forming anywhere in the basin, but are most likely to spin up in the Caribbean. They frequently track westward into the central Gulf, northwestward across Florida, or curve northeastward up the Eastern Seaboard.
- September: 37% of named storms have occurred in September--the peak month for hurricane activity. (The summit of that peak falls on September 10.)
- October: 21% of named storms have occurred during the month of October.
Those areas most likely to produce storms include the southern Gulf of Mexico, the Straits of Florida, and the middle Atlantic. Storms generally track north/northeastward along the Eastern Seaboard and into Atlantic Canada.
- November: 6% of named storms have formed in November.
November storms are likely to originate in the northern Caribbean and track westward out into the open Atlantic.
- December: Less than 1% of named storms have occurred during the month of December.
The above information is helpful during the early stages of vacation planning. On the next page, we'll explore what can be done closer to departure to help save your vacation.