When Is Hurricane Season in Miami And How Can It Affect Your Vacation

South Florida doesn't have earthquakes or blizzards. Hurricanes, however, are a recurring threat that we have learned to live with. The first thing travelers want to know is if it is safe to travel. News reports will show the obligatory news story of tourists caught off guard when a storm is approaching and vacations are disrupted. Understanding hurricane season and keeping an eye on the tropics can help avert a disappointing end to your dream vacation. 

Hurricane season is June 1 to November 30, but in reality it varies. The most common time for Miami to experience landfall is between mid-August through the end of September. September is the most common month for hurricanes making landfall. Some come as early as May or as late as November.

Historical data on hurricanes has been gathered since 1851. As of September 2020, there have been a total of 926 hurricanes. Miami is the city with the greatest historical chance of a hurricane impact. However, only 5 category-5 hurricanes have hit the entire US. Of those, only 3 hit South Florida or the Keys. Keep in mind that Katrina, one of the worst hurricanes in terms of damage, was only a category-3 at landfall. There are a number of factors beyond winds that determine the impact of hurricanes. 

So what do you need to keep in mind to minimize the chances of a hurricane vacation washout? I am not an expert but I did some research to share with our visitors. If you are headed to Miami, there are a number of things to look out for. Your distance from the coast can have an impact on the strength of a storm as it passes over. The hurricane building standards that were in place at the time of your buildings construction is important. The speed of a hurricane moving across land is a major influence on damage potential. Which side of the hurricane you are on is also important. The northeast quadrant of a hurricane often contains the strongest winds and rain bands.

Evacuation orders along the coast and flood zones are common. Your hotel may require you to move inland if your are staying on the coast. Below we will cover issues that may help you determine what you might want to consider for your vacation planning. 

 

Which Months Are Hurricanes Most Common In Miami

September is the most common month for hurricanes. Hurricanes on occasion will form as early as May or as late as November. Analysis of the hurricane database shows that hurricanes affect the Miami area every 1.97 years. Hurricanes hit the Miami area directly on average about every 5 years. Major hurricanes average around every 12 years. The average wind speed is 110 mph. Hurricanes can last for only a few hours or up to a few weeks as they travel across the Atlantic and turn north and dissipate. Of course, these are averages and storms are unpredictable. A major consideration is how far in advance are you going to book your trip. It takes many days for a storm forming off of Africa to cross the Atlantic and reach the USA.

The rainy season in South Florida is between May and October. South Florida on average will get 60 inches of rain each year. The typical summer season rain pattern is clear in the morning with clouds building until the midday rains. By the afternoon or early evening hours the rains usually stop and the skies clear up. The formation of hurricanes is dependent on warm ocean temperature in the Atlantic and humid air fueling tropical storms and transforming them into hurricanes. 

1851-2017_Atlantic_hurricanes_and_tropical_storms_by_month -- By RCraig09 - httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=72529020
1851-2017_Atlantic_hurricanes_and_tropical_storms_by_month -- By RCraig09

What You Need To Know If You Are Visiting South Florida When A Hurricane Is Coming

Storms are very unpredictable and often change directions at the last minute. If you are visiting in Miami Dade County as a major storm is approaching, you can use these resources to help you plan. This is of course a very partial list. This will serve as a starting point. I am not an expert but I have been through many hurricanes in my life. These steps and websites have been helpful to me.

  • Monitor your airline's communications on hurricanes and be informed on their cancellation procedures.
  • Monitor your hotel's communications on evacuations and hurricane emergency plans and their cancellation policies.
  • Research travel insurance for your trip. Look carefully at coverages such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, missed connections, and travel delay reimbursements.
  • Monitor the situation on local news and at the National Hurricane Center.
  • Monitor the Miami-Dade County Emergency Activation page for:
      • Open / Closed Shelters
      • Statements & News Releases
      • Evacuation Orders
      • Expressways, Tolls and Bridges
      • Curfews
  • Check you address on the Miami Dade Storm Surge Planning Site to determine if your are in a possible flood zone. 
  • Check you address on the Miami Dade Storm Aids For Everyone Site (SAFE) to determine facilities that are open such as:
      • Evacuation centers
      • Emergency bus pick-up sites to and from evacuation centers
      • Disaster assistance center
      • Stores that could run on generators, including supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores
      • Points of distribution
      • Food and water
      • Hospitals in operation
  • Monitor the Miami Dade Evacuation Orders web page for information (Prices as of the writing of this post).
  • There are a number of Hurricane & Weather Apps that help you keep up with what is happening:

Local news or the Miami Dade website will have evacuation recommendations and orders if any occur. The Mayor issues recommendations to evacuate if residents are in areas not necessarily in the path of an expected storm surge but that may be prone to flooding. Evacuation orders are usually a result of expected danger from the expected path of the storm and the likelihood that emergency assistance may not be able to reach your area after the storm passes.

 

KeyWest - Hurricane Landfall
KeyWest - Hurricane Landfall
Rough Seas Ahead Of Hurricane
Rough Seas Ahead Of Hurricane

What Are The Stages of Hurricane Strength And How Are They Categorized 

A tropical storm is considered a hurricane once sustained winds reach 74 mph (119 km/h). Since its introduction, the Saffir-Simpson scale is used to categorize hurricanes based on sustained winds.

Saffir-Simpson ScaleCategory Wind SpeedsPossible Damage By Category
Category 174 to 95 mph (119 to 153 km/h)Flying debris will cause some damage to buildings, homes, and cars. Some roofs may be damaged. Tree branches will be snapped off and some trees toppled. Minor power outages in some areas. 
Category 296 to 110 mph (154 to 177 km/h)Debris damage will increase to buildings, homes, and cars. Moderate roof damage. Uprooted trees and some roads blocked. Power outages expected for days to a few weeks.
Category 3111 to 129 mph (178 to 208 km/h)

Severe debris damage to buildings, homes, and cars. Extensive roof damage. Extensive uprooting of trees and road blockage. Power outages expected for few weeks in many areas.

Category 4130 to 156 mph (209 to 251 km/h)Catastrophic debris damage to buildings, homes, cars, roofs and walls. Extensive uprooting of trees and road blockage. Power outages expected for few weeks to months. Water supply shortages.
Category 5157 mph or higher (252 km/h or higher)Massive destruction of buildings, shopping centers, homes, cars, roofs and walls. Tall buildings will have blown out windows in upper floors. Most trees damaged or uprooted and major road blockage. Power outages for weeks to months due to snapped power poles and downed lines. Water, food, gas supply shortages. In areas with older homes and building codes, neighborhoods can have near total devastation.  

 

Hurrican Damage
Hurrican Damage

What Are The Dangers of A Hurricane That Can Impact You

Flying debris poses a danger to people and pets at all categories. At highest categories, a person can be lifted into the air, cars can be blown over, and flying debris can be deadly. In Cat-5 hurricanes it is not uncommon to see debris penetrate concrete block walls. The noise can be very unnerving to many, especially children and pets. Aside from the howling winds, you will hear debris hitting the house.

The most dangerous parts of a hurricane are storm surges and high winds. But extensive rain, flooding, and rip currents often compound the impact. In addition, hurricanes spawn tornados. Hurricane Ivan in 2004 produced a record 120 confirmed tornados.

A stalled hurricane can wreak utter devastation over an area, especially when accompanied by storm surge, prolonged rains, and flooding. The Greater Miami Hurricane of 1926 produced a 15 foot storm surge in Coconut Grove, buildings were leveled, and boats were carried far inland. 

Exiting your building to survey damage during the passing of the eye of a hurricane is a major cause of injuries due to the quick resumption of hurricane conditions after the eye passes.

 


 

The single most important thing to remember about hurricanes is to take them seriously. Never underestimate them. Predictions about paths commonly change from day to day and hurricanes are intensely unpredictable. Many of us locals have been through many hurricanes in our lives but there are still people too young to remember a hurricane like Andrew. Stay informed and be prepared. 

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