Destruction caused by Hurricane Wilma in Mexico, October 2005
Hurricane Season in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico – “Know Before You Go!”
American citizens considering travel to storm-prone regions during hurricane season should carefully consider the potential dangers and inconveniences associated with their travel before finalizing plans. Those who choose to travel should devise an emergency plan in advance of their departure. Even inland areas far from the coastline can experience destructive winds, tornadoes, and floods from tropical storms and hurricanes.
What regions are affected by hurricane season and how?
Hurricanes can affect the islands in the Caribbean Sea, the northern coast of South America, Central America, Mexico, as well as many areas in the United States. Hurricane damage is caused by storm surge, high winds, heavy rain, flooding, mudslides, and tornadoes.
Regions affected by hurricanes and tropical storms may experience widespread damage to infrastructure and serious shortages of habitable accommodations, food, water, and medical facilities. Storms can result in airport closures or limited flight availability due to runway or terminal damage and a shortage of electricity. Americans in affected regions may be required to delay their return to the United States while staying in emergency shelters with basic resources and limited medicine and food supplies.
When is hurricane season?
Hurricane season runs from the beginning of June to the end of November. The past several years have seen an overall increase in the quantity and intensity of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. In 2005, there were 28 named storms of which 15 became hurricanes. This proved to be the most active hurricane season in recorded history, causing billions of dollars in damage and resulting in thousands of fatalities. In 2006, there were 9 major storms including 5 hurricanes, which largely remained off land, limiting the property damage and loss of life to far below the levels witnessed in 2005.
How can I prepare?
Prior to departure, Americans should register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known and will make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency. While Consular Officers will do their utmost to assist Americans in a crisis, travelers should always be aware that when they are abroad, local authorities bear primary responsibility for the welfare of people living or traveling in their jurisdictions. It is important to follow local authorities’ instructions concerning security and evacuation; failure to do so has cost people their lives.
Americans traveling during the hurricane season should monitor local radio and other sources of information, such as the National Hurricane Center, to stay aware of any weather developments in the area. Minor tropical storms can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation. Travelers should maintain close contact with their tour operator, hotel staff, and local officials for evacuation instructions in the event of a weather emergency. Please refer to the traveler’s checklist to help you organize an emergency kit.
For additional information on hurricanes and other tropical storms, please visit the State Department’s website on Natural Disasters.