When and where do hurricanes occur?
- In the Caribbean, the hurricane season normally runs from June to November, with on average 8 to 15 storms per season.
- In the Pacific/South East Asia region, the tropical cyclone season normally runs from May to November, with on average 15 to 20 storms per season.
- In the South Pacific and Australia, the tropical cyclone season normally runs from November to April, with on average 10 to 20 storms per season.
Tropical cyclones also occur in and around northern India, normally from April to June and September to November, and also the East Coast of Africa, normally between November and April.
What is the difference between a hurricane, typhoon, or tropical cyclone?
There is no difference. The terms "hurricane" and "typhoon" are regionally specific names for a strong "tropical cyclone".
Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 34 knots (39mph) are called "tropical depressions". Once the tropical cyclone reaches winds of more than 34 knots they are called a "tropical storm" and assigned a name. If winds reach 64 knots (74mph) then they are designated either a hurricane, typhoon, severe tropical cyclone, severe cyclonic storm or tropical cyclone depending where it the world it occurs.
How are hurricanes ranked?
The USA uses the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale to estimate the potential flooding and damage given a hurricane's estimated intensity. This ranges from 1 (Minimal) to 5 (Catastrophic). For more details about these ranges see: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshs.shtml
The effects of a hurricane
Hurricanes can cause massive amounts of damage and kill many people. 2004 and 2005 saw a sharp increase in both the numbers and the force of hurricanes in the Atlantic/Caribbean region. 2006 was relatively quiet in the Atlantic/Caribbean region, but there were still nine named tropical storms or hurricanes. On 19 June 2007 the Met Office stated that there was a 70% chance that between seven and thirteen named tropical storms or hurricanes will affect the Atlantic/Caribbean region in 2007, with ten being the most likely number.
The most violent hurricanes to affect the Atlantic/Caribbean region in 2004 and 2005 were Ivan, Stan, Katrina and Wilma. They all wreaked widespread havoc, caused billions of pounds in damage to infrastructure and resulted in hundreds of fatalities. Many British holidaymakers in the region were caught up in the disasters, and some British nationals were killed and seriously injured.
Hurricanes in the Atlantic/Caribbean region can strike the northern coasts of South American countries, through Central America including Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, and northwards through the southern states of the USA. Florida, Louisiana and Texas have all suffered badly from hurricanes in the last two years. Any island in the Caribbean can be seriously affected during the hurricane season.
What should I do?
If you are in a hurricane region during the hurricane season, you should monitor local radio and other media outlets to keep abreast of any developments in your area. You should also keep in close touch with your travel/tour operator. You should also be aware that following a hurricane, there may be widespread damage to the infrastructure of the country you are visiting. Past experience has shown that it can take some time for airports to re-open, and there may be serious shortages of habitable accommodation, food and water, and health facilities. Our ability to help British nationals may be limited (perhaps severely) in such circumstances.
Although it is difficult to predict accurately where and when a hurricane can strike, as they often veer off-course when nearing land, you should follow local advice which in some cases may be to leave the immediate area if a hurricane is heading your way. Airports in the affected areas may shut down as the hurricane approaches and hotels may also close. Some local governments may maintain emergency shelters for those rendered homeless by a hurricane, but these are primarily designed for the protection of the local population and conditions are likely to be very basic. Further information on hurricanes and other tropical storms is available on the following websites:
National Hurricane Centre
Federal Emergency Management Agency
|National Hurricane Centre|
|Federal Emergency Management Agency|