photo of hurricane aerial view florida hurricane season travel tips

Wondering about a summer trip during Florida Hurricane Season?

Florida Hurricane Season has arrived. While this season brings extreme weather every year, 2024 is expected to be extra special! If you’re planning a trip to Florida this summer, you may be wondering what to expect during hurricane season that could be different than other times of the year. If you’re a new resident of Florida, you may also be wondering what to expect. In either case, this article is written for you.

Experiencing a Hurricane

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Sometimes, all the spaghetti forecasts flashed on the weather channels during hurricane season leaves you wondering where to go that would be completely out of harm’s way!

I’ve lived in California and experienced earthquakes, and I’ve lived in North Carolina and Florida with their hurricane season. The difference between the two, as I have experienced it, is that there is no warning when an earthquake hits. However, you have weeks to prepare for your “Hurricane Party” when you live on the east coast. 

This is my fifth year in Florida. And in my lifetime I’ve experienced two hurricanes: Hurricane Flo in North Carolina and Hurricane Ian in Florida. I love weather. I love storms. And, I also respect what it can do if you’re not prepared. I evacuated for one; sheltered in place for the other. 

For Hurricane Flo, we monitored the storm for several weeks as it neared our home. When it got closer, we boarded up the windows (the first time in five years of living there) because it was expected to be a category 5, direct hit. The skies up to the day of the storm were incredible and hard to explain. Beautiful and ominous all at the same time.Then, we made the decision to evacuate. We brought food and water with us, knowing that resources in other areas could be stretched as their residents prepared for inclement weather too.

We lived on a barrier island and by design, those are meant to take the brunt force of the weather before hitting the mainland. We left the house knowing that it may not be there when the storm cleared. We were at peace with that; safety was the primary concern.

For Hurricane Ian, we again monitored the storm for weeks but the direction was not as clear cut. I’ve learned that a storm can shift at any time before landfall. Ian was so big that it seemed, for a while, that flying to California was the only best evacuation option! 

You’ll find that all the spaghetti forecasts they flash on the weather channels during hurricane season will leave you wondering where you could go that would be completely out of harm’s way!

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If you decide to shelter in place during the storm, be prepared. Understand that first responders will not come out into high winds and response to emergency calls may be delayed until after the storm has passed.

For me, there were a few things to think about:

Safety first

A house and all the stuff can be replaced. If you need to leave for personal safety, then make the decision and leave.

Storm surge

While the location where the hurricane hits gets the first wave of damage, the storm surge afterwards, when smaller waterways fill up and overflow, causes flooding to areas inland. This will likely slow or halt the flow of traffic or the ability to drive on some of the roads. So while people along the coastline may decide to evacuate, they are then faced with how, and how soon, they’ll get back home.

For this reason, plan to be patient after the hurricane, have enough supplies, and get back home when it’s safe to do so. Also, remember that storm surge may delay trucks from delivering needed supplies. Be prepared for delays in the supply chain.

Having said that, I’m always amazed and inspired by the line workers, disaster crews, and paid and volunteer groups that seem to emerge almost magically after a hurricane to get everything back online as quickly as possible. I know it’s not “magic,” but the work of our officials and the public/private sector. They prepare every year ahead of hurricane season to be sure the residents and visitors are safe. I’m also inspired by the resilience of residents,

Comfort Level if you Shelter in Place

If you decide to shelter in place during the storm, be prepared. Understand that first responders will not come out into high winds and response to emergency calls may be delayed until after the storm has passed and it’s safe for them to respond. Have your list of supplies (there’s a link to a list at the end of this article) and get those supplies early. Florida has two tax holidays for eligible items that are good to have during a storm. 2024 dates are: June 1- June 14 and August 24-September 6.

Click the link for the full list of Disaster Preparedness Items eligible for purchase tax free.

After the hurricane passes, comfort may be the last thing on many people’s minds; however, your level of comfort can determine whether you will stay or not. In North Carolina, we didn’t have a generator. In Florida, we did. Access to a generator means the ability to keep your refrigerated food cold and your home air conditioned.

The weather during hurricane season is hot and humid. The faster you can create a space that you are comfortable in after a natural disaster, the better you will be able to cope with any other damage. In addition, be aware that water sources may be compromised. Have enough water on hand to last until your local officials have given the “all-clear” to drink the water.

When is Hurricane Season in Florida?

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During Florida Hurricane Season, there are various types of storms and tropical cyclone activity with varying degrees of wind and rain.

Florida’s hurricane season begins June 1st and continues through the end of November. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is September 10, with most activity occurring between mid-August and mid-October.

During this season, Florida experiences various types of storms and tropical cyclone activity with varying degrees of wind and rain. There are also many days of sunshine! So remember that even though it’s hurricane season, Florida has a diverse range of weather.

For example, you may experience sunshine during the early hours, with a bit of humidity, and then rain in the late afternoon. That afternoon rain alleviates high humidity and makes the evenings quite pleasant.

When we first moved to Florida, I asked a neighbor what to expect in the summer. He said to plan your golf game in the morning, because chances are good that it will rain in the late afternoon. He was right!

If you’re on the beach, you can experience what I would call drizzle, or light rain, while sunshine and clouds remain in the sky. During those days, I don’t run for cover because the rain will quickly pass. However, if those clouds are dark and there is lightning on the horizon, that is a different matter.

Identify the Weather: Florida Hurricane Season

Because of the weather variety, it’s good to know what each storm description means. The NOAA defines them in the following manner:

  • Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
  • Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
  • Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons; similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.
  • Major Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Also, not all named hurricanes will hit land. Some stay out to sea, avoiding direct land impact and damage. However, there can be increased wave action, flooding, and winds even when the eye of the storm is out to sea. So just like the ocean itself, hurricanes are awesome forces of power and beauty and should be respected for what they are.

What Does the 2024 Hurricane Outlook Look Like?

family packing their car with vacation items for florida hurricane season travel

If you’re visiting during Florida Hurricane Season, check the weather forecast before heading out for the day.

The NOAA is expecting higher than normal hurricane activity for 2024. If you’ve been in the water this year (in June) you can already tell that the water feels warmer than what you would expect for this time of year. The NOAA predicts an 85% chance of above-normal season.

As the year progresses, you can play a kind of hurricane bingo by how deep we get into the list of named storms. They predict that we will have 17-25 named storms, 8-13 hurricanes, and 4-7 major hurricanes. The 2024 Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Names are:

Alberto
Beryl
Chris
Debby
Ernesto
Francine

Gordon
Helene
Isaac
Joyce
Kirk
Leslie

Milton
Nadine
Oscar
Patty
Rafael
Sara

Tony
Valerie
William

Should I Travel During Florida Hurricane Season?

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Understanding your hotel and airline cancellation policies when you book will make things easier should you decide to delay or cancel your trip.

More than 35 million people were expected to visit Florida during the third quarter, between July and September, 2023, according to the Governor’s office. Based on those numbers, millions of people continue to enjoy everything the Sunshine State offers during hurricane season. So, why not enjoy Florida with them?

While each person will make their own decision about when they choose to travel, there are some helpful tips to consider when you travel during Florida Hurricane Season:

Be Aware, But Don’t Panic

Unlike an earthquake or tornado, hurricanes and tropical storms are identified, tracked, and reported on for days, sometimes weeks, before they get close to Florida. This gives you plenty of time to prepare and plan whether you are already here during a weather event, or your travel plans fall during the days a storm is expected to arrive.

Be Smart

If you’re visiting during Florida Hurricane Season, check the weather forecast before heading out for the day. When inclement weather is in the forecast, decide whether it would be best to stay closer to where you are staying, or if taking that longer day trip is okay. If you’re not sure, ask your destination host.

When it does appear you are in the potential path of a hurricane (I say potential because sometimes the winds will shift), make a decision early if you plan to leave. This will help ensure the roads are clear for travel.

And don’t worry, despite talk of Florida someday sinking like Atlantis, it’s been here for thousands of years and I bet it’s not going anywhere. You can always return!

RV Travel

As a special note, with the popularity of RV travel on the rise, be sure you understand special considerations for driving in severe weather conditions. How much wind is safe to drive in? Ideas about how much is too much vary; however, many RVers agree that avoiding travel in sustained winds that exceed 30-40 mph or when wind gusts are consistently over 50 mph is prudent. Make note of anticipated wind speeds because the information is important to plan ideal travel days for your departure and arrival.

Cancellation Policies and Travel Insurance

Understanding your hotel and airline cancellation policies when you book will make things easier should you decide to delay or cancel your trip. In addition, you might consider purchasing travel insurance that would cover any weather-related cancellations.

Be Nice

Most of us have experienced changes in plans or unexpected delays when traveling. Therefore, the key to any great vacation is the ability to pivot and adjust. It’s no different with travel during Florida hurricane season.

Florida businesses and hotels put safety first. Because of that, guests and travelers should understand that those businesses will prioritize their protocols dealing with weather. They consider the safety of their staff as well as the safety of guests. It’s a big responsibility that most are well equipped to handle.

This could mean that some amenities or services may not be available. Or, it could mean that staff numbers are reduced as they redirect their responsibilities to cover the storm. When it is not safe for their staff to drive on the roads, they may be advised to stay home which reduces the number of people available to assist travel guests. Florida travelers and guests can help by following the recommended safety guidelines, especially during strong storms or hurricane conditions. Staff are trained for these emergencies.

And remember, be nice. The storm will pass and the Florida sun will return. Why not see this as an adventure and find something to do inside as Mother Nature does her thing outside.

One More Thing: Florida Hurricane Season Preparedness

dog riding in car-pet plan for florida hurricane season travel

While there are more evacuation shelters designated to accept pets, it can still be a challenge. Have a pet plan!

Whether you’re a local, a newbie Florida resident, or Florida traveler, preparing for hurricane season will go a long way to make your stay enjoyable. I don’t know about you, but scrambling at the last minute for supplies, gas, or an exit never sounds like a good time! However, if you do find yourself in that position, every county in Florida has an emergency plan so tap into that resource, if needed.

In terms of preparing, here are the steps FEMA and the State of Florida recommend:

Make Plan

Talk to your family and loved ones to find out where you will meet up and how you can keep in contact during an emergency. When you need to evacuate to a shelter, understand there are thousands of people involved in preparing and opening shelters. They are there to help. Here is a list of Florida Emergency Shelter information, including those that can accommodate people with special needs.

Have a Go-Bag

You may already have a bag packed for your next vacation (I know I do!), but do you have an emergency bag ready to go in case of a natural disaster? The state of Florida has a Disaster Supply Kit Checklist you can use as a reference. This can be adjusted to include what you would take with you should you decide to evacuate. (or, what I call taking an evacu-cation), and what to stock up on at home.

Keep it Full

Keep your gas tanks filled during Florida hurricane season. If an evacuation is necessary, many people will need gas. Avoid delays and get on the road faster by keeping the tank full. If you have an electric vehicle, be sure you are charged to at least 80% capacity.

Review your Insurance Policy

Homeowners should contact their provider to be sure their insurance is up to date with adequate coverage.

Make a Pet Plan

While there are more evacuation shelters designated to accept pets, it can still be a challenge. Here is the State of Florida’s resource about keeping your pets safe.

After the storm

Once the rain, wind, and clouds have passed, the weather is often very good. Where there is damage, you’ll likely witness the spirit of cooperation as people come together to do what’s necessary to help and clean up. At least that’s what I have experienced.

The Sunshine State is a beautiful place to vacation (or live) all year long, even during Florida hurricane season. It’s just a matter of understanding what to expect, being prepared to change plans, and enjoying the journey.

 

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