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Hurricane season is here: TPG’s storm guide for travelers

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

We’re only one month into hurricane season, and the Caribbean saw its first Category 5 hurricane on Monday — the earliest we’ve seen a Category 5 storm in hurricane season.

After strengthening to a Category 5 storm following landfall on Grenada’s Carriacou Island, Hurricane Beryl is forecast to continue west toward Jamaica. According to the National Hurricane Center, the historic storm, which had sustained winds of about 160 mph late Monday night, is expected to reach Cancun, Mexico, on Tuesday.

Beryl marks the second storm of this year’s hurricane season, which officially started June 1. On June 20, the season’s first named storm, Tropical Storm Alberto, killed four people in central Mexico.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an above-normal hurricane season for this year. As such, one storm, even a small one, can wreak havoc on your vacation plans.

So, what do you need to know now that the season is underway? Let’s take a closer look at when to watch for hurricanes and how to protect your scheduled trips.

Hurricane season outlook for 2024

A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA's 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.

On May 23, forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center predicted an 85% chance of an above-normal hurricane season across the Atlantic Ocean, with a 10% chance of an above-normal season and a 5% chance of a below-normal season. The 2024 predictions are far less optimistic than in 2023, when the same scientists called for a 40% chance of a near-normal hurricane season across the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2023, NOAA reported 17 named tropical storms and 18 hurricanes across the Atlantic, Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific oceans.

La Nina and warmer-than-average ocean temperatures largely influence this year’s tropical activity report.

In their report, meteorologists said they expect anywhere from 17 to 25 total named storms, up from 12 to 17 total named storms. A storm must exhibit 39 mph or higher winds to be worthy of a name. Of that batch of storms, eight to 13 could become hurricanes with 74 mph or higher winds; this includes four to seven major storms that could grow into major Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes, with winds of 111 mph or more.

NOAA pegged its predictions with a 70% confidence rate, which is the same rate as last year.

“The upcoming Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have above-normal activity due to a confluence of factors, including near-record warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean, development of La Nina conditions in the Pacific, reduced Atlantic trade winds and less wind shear, all of which tend to favor tropical storm formation,” NOAA said in its release.

When is hurricane season?

The Atlantic hurricane season started June 1 and ends Nov. 30, though hurricanes can happen outside those dates.

Hurricanes can also happen in the Pacific Ocean, with the Eastern Pacific hurricane season spanning from May 15 through Nov. 30. Storms in this region affect travel to the Mexican Riviera, such as Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Ixtapa.

Hurricanes can also hit Hawaii, typically between June and the end of November but most likely occurring between July and September.

Storms known as cyclones also occur in the Southern Hemisphere. Australia and New Zealand’s peak cyclone season is from March to April.

Is my vacation destination safe from a hurricane?

Atlantic hurricanes usually start in the Caribbean, head to the Bahamas and then hit states in the U.S., including Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas.

Hurricanes have affected northern destinations such as North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and Canada, too.

Hurricanes are normally stronger in the Eastern Caribbean. The peak hurricane season for this area is mid-August through September, while the Western Caribbean tends to see more storms from mid-September through early November.

Cruise itineraries can be affected by hurricane season, too.

Hurricane lingo

A summary graphic showing an alphabetical list of the 2024 Atlantic tropical cyclone names as selected by the World Meteorological Organization. The official start of the Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 and runs through November 30.

Monitor the weather if you have vacation plans in the hurricane zone during hurricane season.

As you watch the weather forecasts, parse the information through these lenses:

  • Tropical depression: A weather event with a sustained surface wind speed of 38 mph or less
  • Tropical storm: A storm with winds ranging between 39 and 73 mph
  • Hurricane: A storm with sustained surface winds of at least 74 mph
  • Hurricane watch: Sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph) or higher possible within the specified area
  • Hurricane warning: Sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph) or higher are expected within the specified area
  • Major hurricane: A hurricane classified as a Category 3 or higher

For more, see the National Hurricane Center’s glossary of hurricane-related terms.

Trip insurance

If you book travel to a destination during its hurricane season, consider your protection options. You can pay for third-party travel insurance, rely on credit card protection or self-insure the trip if you decide the trip cost is low enough to lose what you paid.

Remember that most travel insurance policies don’t cover trip cancellation if you preemptively cancel your trip because the weather forecast looks dismal. In most cases, the storm would need to be named and you would’ve had to purchase your insurance before the storm got to named status.

If you’re worried about bad weather ruining your trip, buy the cancel-for-any-reason add-on for your insurance policy. While this can be expensive, it might be right for your situation. You can compare trip insurance prices with and without the add-on at portals such as InsureMyTrip and SquareMouth.

How to help

There will be many people who need help in the wake of Hurricane Beryl (and possibly other storms throughout the season).

Airlink is a nonprofit organization that works closely with aviation and logistics partners to provide relief and supplies for aid workers and impacted communities. Airlink told TPG that it will provide relief in impacted countries, including Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica, among others.

You can donate directly to Airlink here.

Bottom line

“As one of the strongest El Ninos ever observed nears its end, NOAA scientists predict a quick transition to La Nina conditions, which are conducive to Atlantic hurricane activity because La Nina tends to lessen wind shear in the tropics,” per NOAA. “At the same time, abundant oceanic heat content in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea creates more energy to fuel storm development.”

This means we expect the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season to be more active than in recent years.

“Human-caused climate change is warming our ocean globally and in the Atlantic basin, and melting ice on land, leading to sea level rise, which increases the risk of storm surge,” NOAA added. “Sea level rise represents a clear human influence on the damage potential from a given hurricane.”

NOAA will update its 2024 outlook in August when hurricane season peaks.

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