26 Aug

Are you travelling during the hurricane season?

It’s a national characteristic of the British to complain about the weather. Washout summers and four seasons in one day may make us think that we have plenty to gripe about. Think again. We are actually very lucky in the UK as we have a mild climate, and extreme weather conditions are relatively rare. In other parts of the world, particularly around the tropics, this is not the case.

Between the months of June and November, it is hurricane season in some of our most popular holiday destinations, countries in and around the Caribbean.

Hurricanes are caused by warm air rising from the ocean and, because of this, they generally remain out at sea, having little effect on holidaymakers. However, problems can occur when they make landfall. If and when they do, they rapidly lose strength as they are no longer fed by the warm air rising from the sea that gives them their power.

Since hurricane season is an annual event, countries in affected zones have had literally years of experience in dealing with them. Authorities, particularly in the USA and the Caribbean, will keep a close eye on developing systems which may gather in strength to become tropical storms or hurricanes. They track their movements and issue warnings as and when appropriate. If a tropical storm or hurricane looks as if it is going to make landfall, depending on its severity the advice may be to evacuate the area, or for people to head to a hurricane shelter or other hurricane-proof building.

For holidaymakers, this may mean moving to a shelter, but could also mean remaining in their hotels, which are generally constructed to deal with extreme weather conditions. A prime example of this was a hurricane that hit Puerto Vallarta in Mexico last year. American tour companies took the decision to evacuate customers, whereas British travel companies working with the accommodation providers and local authorities agreed to leave their customers in their hotels. In the event, this was the better judgement as, when the hurricane hit, thousands of people were stuck in traffic jams trying to get away and customers in their hotels were unaffected.

Of course, flying into a hurricane is extremely inadvisable, and airlines will delay flights until the hurricane has passed or reroute their flight path to avoid the storm. You may think that the damage caused by such massive weather conditions would be extremely severe and so how could holidaymakers possibly continue with their travel plans after one has hit? Well, this can be the case, as with the terrible loss of life and damage which was caused by hurricane Katrina to New Orleans. However, in the vast majority of cases damage can be superficial and things are up and running quickly, with customers back on the beach enjoying their holidays in a very short period of time.

If you are travelling with a tour operator during a hurricane season, remember that they and ABTA will be keeping a close eye on the weather and taking appropriate action. However, if you are travelling independently you should keep an eye on the local news and follow the advice of authorities.

Finally some food for thought on just how powerful hurricanes are. The great storm that hit south east England in 1987 which, so history says, weatherman Michael Fish famously failed to predict, was not powerful enough to be even classed as a tropical storm – so was nowhere near being classified as a weak hurricane.