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Will a Hurricane spoil my Caribbean Vacation?


Every week I get various e-mails asking me about the probability a hurricane will hit a certain Caribbean destination during a particular week. Naturally there is no way I can answer this question but I did find some interesting information that may surprise you.  more...


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Every week I get various e-mails asking me about the probability a hurricane will hit a certain Caribbean destination during a particular week. Naturally there is no way I can answer this question but I did find some interesting information that may surprise you.

The name hurricane can be traced back to various old indigenous civilizations. The Mayan storm god was named Hunraken. While an evil Taino god was called Huracan. A hurricane is basically an organized rotating weather system that develops in the tropics. In the western Pacific, hurricanes are called "typhoons," and similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called "cyclones".

Officially the Caribbean hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, peaking out between August and October. During this annual hurricane season, July is the best month to travel. The reason for this interesting fact is that Hurricanes gain intensity above warm water. During July, strong easterly winds are dominant, forcing colder sea water underneath to rise to the surface.

On average, eight hurricanes form during the Caribbean hurricane season each year though, every 15 - 20+ years, hurricane activity increases before it drops for a similar amount of time. Hurricane activity was below normal between 1970 and 1994 before increasing dramatically. We should expect hurricane activity to go down somewhere around 2015.

Hurricanes are not evenly distributed across the Caribbean either. It is safe to say that the southeastern part of the Caribbean has the least number of hurricanes while the southwestern and the northeast regions have the most. Over the last 120 years only two July hurricanes have affected the area around Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Other Caribbean islands that are normally not in the path of hurricanes are Trinidad, Tobago, Grenada and Barbados which statistically only gets hit by a hurricane once every 20 years. The region around the Bahamas has the most frequent occurrence of hurricanes.

In an interview that I found on the internet, Bob Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center, mentions that 100 years of hurricane data show that the chances of Miami being hit by a hurricane is higher than anywhere in the Caribbean.

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named. The original name lists featured only women´s names. In 1979, men´s names were introduced and they alternate with the women’s names. This year we may have to deal with the likes of Arlene, Bret, Emily and Harvey. Naturally there are Hurricane forecasts. For 2011, Colorado State University, has predicted 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes, 5 of them major.

Even if a hurricane does come through the region you are vacationing, most islands rarely get a direct hit. More often the outskirts of the storm touch the islands and rainfall is the main cause of damage and nuisance. Thanks to modern satellite technology we know a hurricane’s path days in advance. Where it boils down to is that visitors to the Caribbean have just a 2-3 percent chance of being affected by a hurricane during a one- or two-week trip. In a future article I will talk about how you can protect yourself in case a hurricane hits during your vacation.

For more updates on tropical storms in the Caribbean visit the site of the National Hurricane Center

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