If Superstorm Sandy was any indication, the Atlantic hurricane season is anything but predictable. But that doesn’t stop a team of meteorologists at Colorado State University from dreaming up a forecast each year.
Prospective beachgoers, coastal residents and vacation home owners may not like what Bill Gray and Phil Klotzbach had to say in their initial numerical prediction for the 2013 season, released Wednesday.
The hurricane gurus, who were the first to release seasonal hurricane forecasts back in 1984, say we can expect to see 50 percent more activity in 2013 than during a normal season.
By the numbers, they predict 18 named tropical storms, of which nine will become hurricanes. A tropical storm has sustained winds of 39 mph or more and reaches hurricane strength after winds surpass 74 mph. Gray and Klotzbach predict that, of the nine hurricanes, four will be major with sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or greater.
Their forecast covers the entire Atlantic basin -- including the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico -- through the traditional season from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Insurance companies and emergency managers use the Colorado State forecast to prepare Americans for the season, but it’s also useful for holidaymakers looking to make wise choices this summer.
Hurricane Season Travel Tips
According to the 2013 predictions, the U.S. coastline has a 72 percent chance of a major hurricane hitting land. More specifically, the East Coast from Maine to Florida has a 48 percent chance, while the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle through Texas has a 47 percent chance. The islands of the Caribbean, meanwhile, have a 61 percent probability that a major hurricane will strike land.
With statistics like that, booking a vacation this summer may seem impossible, but the reality is that the chances of a hurricane ruining your trip are relatively low. Not only are land-hitting severe hurricanes rare, but airlines, hotels and cruise ships all have flexible policies in place for when a storm does hit.
Of course, there's no telling when a tropical storm may arise, but statistics offer some clues.
Some 70 percent of storms occur between August and October, so those traveling in June, July and November have a lower chance of encountering a tropical tantrum. A date you may want to avoid traveling on is Sept. 10. A storm has churned out at sea nearly every year on this date since records began.
Knowing where hurricanes actually hit is also essential. Florida (particularly the Keys) and coastal regions of Texas have it worst in the U.S. mainland. Louisiana and North Carolina also have it rough, statistically.
If you crave warm waters with no chance of a tropical disturbance, consider Trinidad and Tobago or the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, which lie outside the traditional hurricane belt. Further north, if you're willing to take the risk, several Caribbean destinations offer steep discounts to entice travelers during the low season. Most of the time, the gamble is worth the risk. Be aware, however, that the Bahamas has the worst record by far for hurricanes in the Caribbean.
Either way, with a little planning most travelers don’t get stuck with the bill when their dream vacation is a washout.
It’s a good idea to place a call to your airline and hotel the minute you find yourself eying the eye of a storm. You'll find that those non-refundable tickets have a little more wiggle room than you'd imagined.
Cruises have a different modus operandi. Instead of canceling trips, they typically re-route ships to destinations away from oncoming storms. A seven-day tour of the Eastern Caribbean, for instance, might become a tour of the Western Caribbean instead.
However you travel, it’s always a good idea to use a credit card, opposed to a debit card. In the odd case where you encounter a problem, your credit card can handle the dispute on your behalf.
As with everything, the key is to plan ahead. If you do, your hurricane season vacation should go off smoothly, come what may.