Navigating Florida’s Hurricane Season

It must be frustrating for Florida residents. On the plus side, you get to live in what many people would consider a paradise, with agreeable temperatures almost year round, never more than an hour drive to the coast, beautiful beaches, and some of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.

But in keeping with the notion that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, Florida residents also have to spend about six months out of every year keeping a watchful eye on the Atlantic Basin to their east. This is Hurricane Season, and from June until November, Florida often finds itself in the crosshairs of any number of oddly named tropical depressions, tropical storms, or hurricanes, which can blow across the Sunshine State causing hundreds of millions of dollars in water damages.

While the last five years have been relatively uneventful, hurricanes still pose a very real and major threat, with many of the strongest storms of the last hundred years occurring in the last decade or so.

Fact: More storms hit Florida than any other state. Since official records started being kept, statistics show that for Category 3 and higher storms, 35 hit Florida, compared to 19 for Texas and 3 for Georgia, and 6 for Alabama.

Fact: Every year, at least one named storm strikes Florida. This pattern has fragmented since 2005, and Hurricane Wilma remains the last major storm to hit the state.

Fact: Some areas of Florida are at the same risk of hurricanes as the Carribean Islands. In fact, Miami is at greater risk each year from hurricanes than anywhere in the Carribean. Just something to ponder when planning that next vacation.

Fact: August to October is the peak of hurricane season in Florida. However, strong storms have hit the state outside of those months.

Fact: 2004 was probably the single busiest year for Florida hurricanes, with Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne striking the state, with 20 fatalities, and $40 billion in damages.

Fact: 2005 was slightly less frantic, but still boasted some of the strongest storms in recent memory, such as a glancing blow off Miami from the now legendary Hurricane Katrina, with subsequent visits from Hurricanes Rita and Wilma. Wilma formed remarkably late in the season (late October), hitting just south of Naples as a Category 3 storm on October 24.

If you are planning a trip to Florida during the summer months, don’t let the prospect of a hurricane deter you. The chances of your being clobbered by a Category 5 storm while on vacation at Disneyworld are remote at best. Florida resorts have hurricane policies and weather guarantees in place, just in case, and Florida closely monitors rapidly changing weather conditions and advises visitors and tourists accordingly. A few practical tips:

Get the weather guarantee in writing from whatever resort you are visiting. The policies differ from place to place, but usually involve some measure of refund or rescheduling without any additional charges being incurred.

Some vacationers secure travel insurance for their various trips. Keep in mind though that hurricane coverage is not included, and may be obtained for an additional premium.

Find out if your hotel or resort is in an evacuation zone. If so, learn the evacuation route so you are not caught by surprise. In most cases, visitors will be asked to evacuate much sooner than residents. The idea is to prevent and uncontrollable crush of traffic along evacuation routes.

Stay informed during your stay. If weather conditions begin changing rapidly, pay close attention to the radio or TV for weather reports, warnings, or watches. With the technology available today, there is usually more than ample warning before the arrival of any storm.

Bottom line is that you shouldn’t let the thought of what might happen deter you from going where you want to go. If you want to visit Florida for a vacation, go for it. If you are concerned about a possible hurricane, go anyway. Purchase some travel insurance and keep one ear on the radio, but otherwise enjoy yourself.

Click for more information on hurricanes and flood cleaning.

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