About Hurricanes by 'Visit Florida'
Nature. In Florida we enjoy its blessings. And sometimes we suffer its fury.
Florida has miles of unspoiled beaches, amazing state parks, ancient
forests, lazy rivers and, of course, the best man-made wonders in the world!
Provided below are answers to frequently asked questions on travel during
hurricane season for visitors.
It’s important to note that a direct hit to a particular destination
anywhere in the world by a major hurricane is a rare event. Floridians have
learned to prepare for these storms and respect their strength. Arguably, no
state in the country is better prepared to handle these natural, yet rare
events. Under the leadership of Governor Jeb Bush, safety is the state's
Frequently Asked Travel Questions During Hurricane Season
What months are considered hurricane season?
The Atlantic hurricane season is officially June 1 to November 30. The peak
of the season is from mid-August to mid-October.
What is a hurricane?
A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with a defined circulation and sustained
winds of 74 miles per hour (65 knots) or greater in the North Atlantic
Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern North Pacific
Ocean. This same tropical cyclone is known as a typhoon in the western
Pacific and a cyclone in the Indian Ocean.
What is the difference between a hurricane warning and a hurricane watch?
The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida has the responsibility for
monitoring and issuing watches and warnings in the Atlantic and Northeast
basins. A warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in 24-36
hours, and a watch when hurricane conditions are possible within 36-48
hours. If a warning or watch is issued, one should begin preliminary
preparations for potential landfall and stay tuned to radio and TV for
What are the chances of a tropical storm affecting one particular
destination during hurricane season? Do we cancel travel plans during
VISIT FLORIDA clearly understands that some people have concerns about the
possible impact a hurricane could have on a planned vacation. Any tropical
system affecting the location where one plans to vacation makes that year
notable. However, the odds of that happening are low. Rather, the odds are
tropical storms and hurricanes will bypass most areas potentially at risk.
VISIT FLORIDA suggests when making travel plans during hurricane season,
visitors check with airlines, hotels, car rental, etc. to find out how they
inform their guests when a hurricane is coming, what actions they plan and
what refund policies they have in place. Once again, it is important to
point out a direct hit by a major hurricane is an extremely rare event.
What do travelers do if they’re in Florida and a hurricane is approaching?
Many Florida tourism offices actively work with local emergency management
officials to keep visitors safe in the event of an approaching storm. There
are cooperative agreements to help find accommodations for visitors who
might have to be evacuated from coastal areas. The safety of Florida’s
visitors is a priority. Visitors will receive information from local news
broadcasts on radio and television and from tourism officials on what might
be required in a particular localition they are visiting. A storm can
approach and affect one part of the state, while the sun remains shining in
How are hurricane categories determined and what do they mean?
The strength of hurricanes is rated using the Saffir/Simpson scale in the
United States. This scale assigns a storm to one of five categories based on
its wind speed. Category one is a minimal hurricane and category five is the
strongest. Using this scale helps estimate the potential property damage and
expected coastal flooding from a hurricane.
What is a tropical disturbance?
An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms without a defined
What is a tropical depression?
An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a circular wind
circulation and maximum winds less than 39 mph.
What is a tropical storm?
An organized system of strong thunderstorms with defined circulation and
maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph.
What regions around the globe have hurricanes?
Hurricanes develop over the tropical or subtropical waters around the world.
There are seven tropical cyclone areas (basins) where storms occur:
• Atlantic basin (North Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea)
• Northeast Pacific basin (from Mexico to about the dateline)
• Northwest Pacific basin (from the dateline to Asia including South China
• North Indian basin (including the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea)
• Southwest India basin (Africa)
• Southeast Indian/Australian basin
• Australian/Southwest Pacific basin
What is the Eye of the storm? Rainbands?
The hurricane’s core is called the Eye. The winds closest to the eye,
typically averaging about 60 miles from the center of the storm, are the
strongest and bring the most potential for damage. Rainbands (outer spiral
bands) are the bands of clouds and thunderstorms that trail away from the
eye wall in a spiral fashion and are capable of producing heavy bursts of
rain and wind. The spiral bands also make hurricanes appear to cover a much
larger area with damaging winds, than they really do. This is the reason why
devastation during strong storms does not cover the entire area the storm
Why are hurricanes named? Who names them?
The National Hurricane Center is also responsible for naming tropical
cyclones in the Atlantic basin. Hurricanes are named to provide ease of
communication and reduce confusion between forecasters and the general
public regarding forecasts, watches and warnings.
Where can I get real-time advisories for hurricanes/tropical storms?
• National Hurricane Center - www.nhc.noaa.gov
• National Weather Service - www.nws.noaa.gov
• National Climatic Data Center – www.ncdc.noaa.gov
How do these hurricanes/storms affect Florida’s environment?
• They help to scrub harmful algae from coral reefs.
• Prune dead limbs from trees allowing sunlight to penetrate the forest
• Deposit sand atop and on the backside of barrier islands, which elevates
them, keeping islands from becoming a sand bar. "The big changes that occur
in barrier islands often occur during hurricanes," according to Orrin H.
Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Geology at the Nicholas School
of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke. "Barrier islands need
hurricanes for their survival…It's during hurricanes that islands get higher
• Moderate global temperature.
• Rain helps to refill the aquifer. It's seeping in now and wells are
• The water flow in natural springs increases. Previously, it was declining.
• Wildlife benefits from the increased water. Dried out wetlands are
rehydrating and coming back to life.
• Downed trees are good for the scrub jays, increasing the endangered
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