Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
Now that I have your attention …
… there are things you need to know about hurricanes if you’re going to the beach!
It’s an unfortunate reality, but June 1 to November 30 is hurricane season. Some years, like 2012, when we’ve had a warm winter, things heat up fast in the subtropical waters surrounding Florida and storms brew early (i.e. Beryl drenching Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas Memorial Day weekend). Whether you are staying for a few days on vacation in one of our historic bed and breakfast inns or in a luxury beach resort, or if you are moving to the beach permanently it’s best to keep emergency preparedness in mind and a hurricane plan in hand.
Let me say up front that I am NOT a hurricane authority and it is NOT the purpose of this page to replace those who are. I’ve lived in Florida and the Carolinas most of my life and have seen a fair number of hurricanes bring wind and rain to the state. I’ve ridden out a category 1, but I don’t want to push my luck with bigger storms. Hurricanes are not fun! What I can say is that I’ve had some experience with hurricanes and I respect them and the devastation they can do.
I saw this first hand when we moved to South Carolina just two months after Hurricane Hugo tore through the state. It took years for all the clean-up to be completed. There were beach houses lifted off their pilings and blown inland as far as half a mile and large fishing boats left sitting in trees or in highway medians. All of the tall pine trees were bent over or leaning where the wind had pushed them. This was a category 4 hurricane (see hurricane category chart).
The most recent major hurricane to affect Northwest Florida was Ivan in 2004. A strong category 5 in the Atlantic, it weakened to a category 4 in the gulf and eventually made landfall in Gulf Shores, Alabama as a cat 3 with 120 mile per hour winds. The strongest winds are always on the east side of a storm since hurricanes turn counter clockwise, so Northwest Florida was hit with the strongest winds and tidal surge.
Again, I’m no meteorologist, but it seems like hurricanes sort of build up over the summer months and get really active in September (Hugo, Ivan, and Katrina were all September storms), but remember hurricane season starts in June so they can develop any time.
Now that you’re riled up about hurricanes, here’s the good news. Hurricane tracking has gotten better and better over the years. What used to be a surprise to those who were hit by a hurricane is now hours, if not days of warnings ahead of time. When the surf is rough, Florida has a beach flag warning system to let you know the water conditions and if rip currents might be present. It really is amazing what the National Hurricane Center and other hurricane trackers are able to do in the way of forecasting the track of a storm.