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Caribbean Hurricane Season Travel Tips

See average Caribbean weather in: January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December

Caribbean hurricane season chart
This Caribbean hurricane season chart shows the average number of tropical storms and hurricanes by month. © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
The size and economic impact of Hurricane Irma in September 2017 was rare, but major Caribbean hurricanes in September are not unusual.

The annual Caribbean hurricane seasons officially begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. September historically is the worst month of the season for hurricane risk.

The average Caribbean hurricane season may have as many as 12 to 20 named storms of which six could become hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The season always increases the risk of a bad vacation because of the number of tropical storms and hurricanes that roll through the region between June and November every year.

Caribbean climate is especially bad in September and October because those months typically have the highest level of storm and hurricane activity each year.

Cruise ships typically avoid bad weather by steering around it. Stopover visitors who stay at a destination for up to a week or more have a greater risk of experiencing a storm or hurricane.

But the odds of avoiding them are still good, even during the peak of the season. They rarely hit an island directly. Barbuda was a rare exception from Hurricane Irma. Instead, they often pass nearby and bring high winds and heavy rains to the islands.

What is a Tropical Cyclone?

The weather activity that develops into the potential for a hurricane is called a tropical cyclone.

“A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has a closed low-level circulation,” the U.S. National Hurricane Center says.

The center divides cyclones into four types depending on their wind speeds.

Tropical depression: maximum sustained winds of 38 mph or less.
Tropical storm: maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph.
Hurricane: maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher.
Major hurricane: maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or higher with a “category” number of 3, 4 or 5

A tropical depression is not strong enough to force travelers to evacuate from islands. A tropical storm usually doesn’t lead to evacuations either, although it may produce some structural damage.

Tropical cyclones usually form in the Atlantic Ocean and move west toward the Caribbean. Sometimes they grow in strength and sometimes weaken in strength as they approach the region.

Hurricane Season By Month

The following numbers are historical averages and will vary from year to year.

June: On average, one tropical storm develops every other year.

July: Three tropical storms develop, two become hurricanes and one becomes a major hurricane.

August: Three tropical storms develop during the month and two become hurricanes.

September: Four tropical storms develop, two become hurricanes and one becomes a major hurricane.

October: Four tropical storms develop, none of which become hurricanes.

November: The final month has fewer than one storm every other year.

High and Low Risk Islands

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Tropical storm and hurricane activity chart (Credit: NOAA)
Some destinations have higher risks than others.

On average, about 12 to 15 storms move through the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico each year. Individual destinations may avoid most of them because they lie outside of the storms' paths.

The southern ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao lie outside of the hurricane zone. It is why Aruba in particular has higher visits in September and October than most destinations.

However, it too experiences bad weather from nearby storms and hurricanes, and occasionally it is directly hit.

In the Atlantic Basin in 2010, a total of 19 named storms formed – tied with 1887 and 1995 for third highest on record, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Of those, 12 became hurricanes – tied with 1969 for second highest on record. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.

Average Storm and Hurricane Activity

The following statistics come from the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

  • June - 1 tropical storm
  • July - 3 storms, 2 become hurricanes
  • August - 3 storms, 2 become hurricanes
  • September - 4 storms, 2 become hurricanes
  • October - 4 storms, few rarely become hurricanes
  • November - infrequent storms

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