Hurricane Seasons in the Caribbean
The Caribbean countries are undoubtedly one of the most exotic tourist locations in the world. Beautiful beaches, moderate weather, and the development of tourism over the years make it an attractive tourist spot for people. The area is thronged by over 25 million tourists every year.
Coastal tourist attractions are a dream vacation for many people. The islands with scarce population make for a wonderful, secluded spot. But the tourism in the Caribbean (just like any other coastal destination) varies across seasons.
By this, we mean that the number of visitors keeps fluctuating each season. Weather is one of the main factors that influence the tourism sector. The Caribbean sees more activity in the dry season and lesser in the wet season.
This is because the islands witness the hurricane season during the latter. Another term given to this period is the low season. Understandably, the name suggests that a stay in the Caribbean during this time is not as much in demand as it is in other seasons.
The hurricane season
Every year, between June and November, the heavenly Caribbean region is hit by tropical storms and hurricanes. Torrential rains and strong winds result in evacuations and economic losses. So the period starting from June 1 and ending on November 30 is officially declared the hurricane season.
Recently, we all heard about Iota in the news, a powerful category 4 hurricane that made landfall in Nicaragua. This is quite typical of the Caribbean during this time of the year. However, the intensity and damage done by each hurricane tend to vary.
Different categories of hurricanes
Not every tropical depression goes on to become a hurricane. Some fade away deep into the ocean without creating any major disturbance on the land. There may however be some minor inconveniences like heavy rains, winds, and minor flooding.
To be known as a hurricane, a storm must have sustained winds of about 74mph. Hurricanes are categorized according to their strength. There are a total of 5 categories numbered 1 through 5, with Category 1 being the weakest and Category 5 being the strongest.
A Category 1 hurricane has winds ranging between 74 to 95mph and can be called ‘very dangerous’. Category 2 winds are between 96 to 110mph and may cause extensive damage. A hurricane with winds ranged between 111 to 129mph belongs to category 3 which could be ‘devastating’.
Category 4 and 5 hurricanes are the most lethal with powerful winds over 130 and 157mph respectively. Both have the potential to cause ‘catastrophic damage’. Category 3 and above hurricanes are known as major ones.
Unforgettable hurricanes in history
Even for an area that is known to have an entire season of hurricanes, some leave an unforgettable impact. There have been some particularly devastating storms in the history of the Caribbean. The most extraordinary ones include the Great Hurricane (1780), Hurricane Gilbert (1988), Hurricane Sandy (2012), Hurricane Joaquin (2015), Hurricane Irma (2017), etc.
Often termed the deadliest hurricane in history, this monster storm took the lives of over 22,000 people. The affected areas included the United States, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Lesser Antilles, Hispaniola, etc. The peak winds reached around 200mph.
Occurring in 2012, the category 3 hurricane killed 285 people from a total of 8 different countries. The highest recorded winds were measured at 115mph. The damage Sandy caused was estimated to be around $70 billion.
Category 5 hurricane Irma resulted in 134 fatalities, most of which were reported from the Caribbean Islands. The highest winds were about 185mph. Damages caused by the storm amounted to over $50 billion.
Sometimes, a single hurricane does not stand out but the entire season carves its name in history forever. For example, 2008 had 8 hurricanes in the Caribbean, out of which 5 were major ones. Over 1000 lives were lost and economic loss was more than $49 billion.
2017 is another unforgettable year in this regard. There were about 10 hurricanes and 6 of these were major ones. Along with Irma, Maria was another hurricane to make landfall as a category 5 storm.
The year proved disastrous with widespread damage to lives and properties. More than 3300 fatalities were reported and the economy suffered losses worth $295 billion. This was the deadliest year since 2005.
Which countries are the most affected?
A person who is weak in the subject of geography would never want an exam question based on the Caribbean countries. For anyone who isn’t a native, it gets a little difficult to remember the names of all independent countries, dependent islands, groups of islands, etc. It must be mentioned that the combined number of all the islands, islets, reefs, and cays is 700.
The better-known countries of the region include Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Barbados, etc. There are 13 independent countries and many other territories with different statuses. You may not have memorized all the names, but you would have definitely heard quite a few at different times in life.
As far as hurricanes are concerned, some areas are more prone to be hit due to their geographical location. This is just like an area situated on a fault line experiences more earthquakes. Most hurricanes that originate in the Atlantic follow a similar trajectory.
The Caribbean countries most affected due to these are Cuba, Bahamas, Haiti, etc. The nations bordering the coast are naturally more vulnerable. But almost all the territories have suffered some kind of hurricane-related damage at some point or the other.
The calm before the storm
Although this heading sounds a bit dramatic, this is exactly what the Caribbean has always witnessed during the months leading to the hurricane season. The Caribbean waters seem to refuel for the up-coming stormy season between December and May. A shower or two is one thing, but there’s no permanent trend of extreme weather in these months.
Not only this, there have been years when the Caribbean was spared of too many horrors. For example, 2014 saw 6 hurricanes and two of these were major. The number is relatively lower as compared to other years. 2015 had similar statistics.
We from CaribbeanTL.com wish you calm seas and sunny days!