Every three years, around five hurricanes strike the U.S., and most of these storms end up hitting the southern states—with Florida right in their path. For Floridians, it’s crucial to be prepared for this weather.
Although hurricanes sound scary (and they can be), it’s important to note that not many make it to the U.S. fully formed, and there are many steps you can take to lower the risk of danger to yourself and your home. Still, it’s vital to read up on hurricanes and ensure you know what to expect and when to expect them.
Here, we’ll look at when hurricane season is in Florida, along with how to prepare and what you can expect if a hurricane is barreling toward you.
When Is Hurricane Season in Florida?
Hurricane season in Florida is a six-month stretch running from June 1st to November 30th, but August, September, and October are the riskiest months. Because it’s so hot in the Atlantic at this time of year, the water has warmed up, allowing tropical waves to form and help push hurricanes on.
Florida hurricane season starts: June 1
Florida hurricane season is over: November 30
The southeast coastline is the most likely to be hit due to its position by the Atlantic, but Florida’s panhandle has also seen extreme storms in past decades.
How to Prepare for Florida Hurricane Season
Although local news and weather channels and apps will notify you if a hurricane is heading for you, the best thing you can do is take steps beforehand to ensure you’re prepared well in advance. You can do some things to protect yourself, your family, and your home in case those high winds pass through.
Know Your Insurance Policy
Knowing what your insurance will take care of if a hurricane hits is essential because you’ll have to take care of the damage afterward. Home insurance can usually help out with repairs and some temporary living expenses, up to the limits of your specific policy, if the storm damages your home.
If you live in an area that might flood during a hurricane, you should consider buying flood damage insurance.
Create an Emergency Kit
Having a kit that you can grab and go if there’s a need for evacuation can save a lot of time—and your life. Keep a bag by the door that has all of your family’s essentials, including:
- A flashlight and batteries
- Non-perishable snacks
- Water bottles
- Any medication that anyone in the house needs
- First-aid supplies
- A portable cell phone charger
- A radio, if possible, for times when you have no cell signal
- Pet food and medication, if applicable
Know that this isn’t an exhaustive list, and consider what your family may personally need. For example, if you have kids, you may want to pack some games or a portable console to ensure they have something to keep them calm and distracted.
Store Important Documents Safely
As well as having an emergency kit at the ready, store all of your essential documents in a place where you can easily reach them (and a place you’ll remember, so you’re not scrambling at the last minute to find them). You should include birth certificates, marriage certificates, printouts of insurance policies, any immigration documentation, health records, and school records.
Make Sure You Can Tie Down or Store Outdoor Furniture
If you have a lot of yard decor and furniture, now is the time to make sure you have the equipment to tie it down or a shed to store it in. While this may not protect it from a severe hurricane, most of the hurricane winds that hit Florida are of a low category, and by doing this, you might keep your things on your property.
This tip also protects others by keeping your stuff from blowing away and damaging someone else’s property or injuring someone.
Plan an Evacuation Route
Lastly, be sure to have an evacuation plan. Know where you’d go and the route you’d take to get out of a hurricane’s path. Planning to head north into Georgia is a good idea, as this should take you out of the way of most strong storms.
Having an idea of where you would stay is helpful too. For example, you might need to look at pet-friendly accommodations if you have pets. If you have friends or family in neighboring states, you might want to ask if they could temporarily host you if a hurricane were to hit.
What to Do If a Hurricane Is Approaching
Hopefully, the above preparation tips will all be things you don’t have to use this hurricane season. But there are times you will get the notification that a hurricane is heading for Florida, and you will have to decide what to do.
The first thing you should decide is if you’re going to evacuate. It’s essential to listen to official recommendations when making this choice. Sometimes, there will be a mandatory evacuation, and other times, the choice will be yours.
If a storm seems threatening and you decide to evacuate, seal up your home, grab that emergency kit, and follow the evacuation plan you’ve created in advance. But if experts don’t expect an approaching low-category hurricane to do much damage, it could be in your best interests to stay.
If you’ve decided it’s better to stay, take the following steps:
- Clear your yard of all decor and furniture (including pots), or tie it down if you have nowhere to put it.
- Charge up all of your devices in case you lose power.
- Make sure you have everything you need, including plenty of bottled water (or containers filled with clean drinking water in case it gets contaminated).
- Cover up windows and doors; storm shutters are ideal for this.
- Be ready to turn your power off if power lines come down or there’s flooding.
- Have a radio ready in case you lose cell signal. It could be your best shot at getting updates.
You should also avoid going outside until you’ve received official word that the hurricane has passed. A hurricane can look deceivingly calm and then quickly get bad again. Always treat the outside world with extreme caution until you know the storm has moved on.
10 Other Frequently Asked Questions About the Florida Hurricane Season
Although knowing how to prepare is the most critical thing, there are other questions you may have. This is especially true if you have just moved to Florida from a mostly hurricane-free place or have never had to learn about them until now.
1. What Causes Hurricanes?
Hurricanes form when warm air begins to rise over water. Cooler air replaces and creates storms. Sometimes, these storms grow very strong and begin to rotate, turning into hurricanes.
2. How Are Hurricanes Ranked?
Experts break hurricanes down into five categories that indicate their strength:
- Category 1: 75–94 miles per hour (mph) winds. There might be some minor damage to trees and shrubbery, but generally not too dangerous. Mobile homes do risk some damage.
- Category 2: 96–110 mph winds. It might cause a lot of damage to shoreline properties and buildings that aren’t well constructed. Mobile homes are risking damage if they aren’t anchored to the ground.
- Category 3: 111–130mph winds. The hurricane might take down trees, and small buildings are at risk. This level of storm might completely destroy mobile homes. Shoreline residences need to evacuate.
- Category 4: 131–155mph winds. Large trees can be blown down in these winds, and homes might suffer significant damage, especially near the coast.
- Category 5: 155+ mph winds. The storm may take down complete buildings and do other extensive damage. There is a threat to life. Fortunately, it’s rare for a hurricane of this magnitude to hit Florida.
When a hurricane is coming, experts will give their best estimate of what category it will fall under by the time it gets to your area. It’s important to remember that it can still become a category above or below, as hurricanes are volatile by nature.
3. What Are the Components of a Hurricane?
There are four major parts to a hurricane. Which part of the hurricane is moving through an area at a given time will impact how strong the winds feel and the damage done.
- The Eye: You’ve likely heard the term ‘the eye of the storm,’ meaning a calm period. That’s because the eye of the hurricane is the center and generally has the lowest pressure. The calmer winds are deceiving because they only last for a brief time.
- The Eyewall: Right next to the eye is the eyewall, which is the most intense part of a hurricane. Your surroundings can change very quickly during a storm for this reason.
- The Central Dense Overcast: This is the inner portion of the hurricane that encompasses the eye and the eyewall. It’s often referred to as the CDO.
- Outflow: This is the edge of the hurricane. It’s generally less intense than the CDO, but you can still expect damage from the storm’s fringe.
All parts of a hurricane can be dangerous, which is why it’s important not to move until you’re sure the storm is over.
4. How Often Does Florida Get Hurricanes? Is It Likely This Year?
Experts usually have an idea of how intense a hurricane season will be before it hits, but it’s hard to say how many of those storms will hit Florida. The year 2020, for example, saw 30 named storms in the region, but none ended up causing extensive damage to the state.
It’s tough to predict how many storms will make landfall and even harder to predict how many will do direct damage to Florida. The best thing you can do is keep an eye on developing news.
5. What Month in Florida Has the Most Hurricanes?
September usually sees the most hurricanes in Florida. The official peak is September 10th, although August and October can also see some bad storms. However, there can always be exceptions to the rule, so it’s wise to prepare throughout the year.
6. How Strong Do Hurricanes Get in Florida?
Only five Category 5 hurricanes have ever reached U.S. soil, with the most recent being Hurricane Michael in 2018, which landed on the Florida panhandle. Before that, the last Category 5 to hit was in 1992.
All that to say, while a life-ruining hurricane can hit Florida, it is improbable. Stay aware and keep an eye out for news, but there’s no need to be in a constant panic about the chances of a Category 5 coming your way.
7. How Far in Advance Will I Know About a Hurricane?
Scientists can usually predict a hurricane’s path 3–5 days in advance during peak hurricane season in Florida. This gives you plenty of time to secure your home against the oncoming storm and evacuate if experts tell you that’s the best course of action. Of course, things will go much quicker if you take the preparation steps above.
8. What Is the Difference Between a Hurricane Watch and a Warning?
A hurricane watch means that hurricanes are possible within the specified area, and you should keep an eye on things. When upgraded to a hurricane warning, hurricanes aren’t just possible; they’re expected. When a watch changes to a warning, it’s time to take action.
9. Can Tornadoes Happen Around Hurricanes?
Yes. Tornadoes can form during the hurricane months in Florida and are actually quite common during hurricanes. Experts predict tornadoes with a similar system. If you see a tornado watch in your area, it’s time to keep an eye on the news and set up alerts on your phone. If there’s a warning, you need to take action.
The best thing you can do is find a room with no windows (or one where you can block off the windows) and hunker down, bringing your family and pets with you. Tornadoes generally have less preparation time than hurricanes because they form over land, not the sea, so there’s less time for scientists to warn you.
10. What Are ‘Hurricane Hunters’?
Hurricane hunters are officials who will fly directly into the storm to gather data. Not a job for the faint of heart! They specifically engineer the planes to withstand the storm, and crews usually return safely from their missions. Hurricane hunters have even flown into infamous storms like Hurricane Katrina.
The Best Thing You Can Do Is Prepare
Hurricanes are a scary topic, and if you live in Florida, you may want to avoid thinking about them and the possibilities. It’s important to remember that, statistically, the injury and death tolls from these storms are very low in the state because we have scientists who can predict them in time for us to take appropriate action. And usually, by the time the storm makes landfall, it’s of a lower category, making it easier to withstand.
As long as you have an emergency kit ready to go, know how to secure your home, and know what your insurance policy can help out with in the event of storm damage, you’ve done what you can. Stay up to date with the news, and you’ll know when it’s time to take action.