Fred Mawer, The Daily Telegraph, May 31, 2013
The Atlanic hurricane season starts tomorrow, and warmer than normal waters in the region have prompted the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other leading forecasters, to warn of “an active or extremely active” summer of storms.
According to the NOAA, there may be up to double the usual number of hurricanes between June and November.
Despite the warnings, the chances of encountering a hurricane are still small. The NOAA has calculated that at worst – that is, on a week-long holiday in September (statistically the busiest month for hurricanes) to a relatively hurricane-prone Caribbean island – the likelihood is 1 in 50.
To a less hurricane-hit island in a less stormy month, the chances are far lower. June to November is the Caribbean’s low season, with much cheaper rates for accommodation than at other times. So some holidaymakers may decide that travelling then is simply worth the risk.
Destination and timing can dramatically affect the probability of coinciding with bad weather. On stormcarib.com, charts based on tropical systems from 1851 to 2010 show how much more likely storms are between mid-August and mid-October than in June or November. (Note, however, that Hurricane Sandy, which caused enormous destruction to the US eastern seaboard last year, struck in late October.)
In terms of where to travel, southern Caribbean islands – notably Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao of the Dutch Caribbean, and Trinidad and Tobago – are far less likely to be hit by a hurricane than those farther north: see stormcarib.com’s “Hits and Misses” chart.
Holidaymakers affected by a hurricane who have booked a package should find themselves in a far more favourable situation than those travelling independently.
Tour operators must offer package holidaymakers a refund or alternative trip if they have yet to travel and cannot do so because of a storm, and they have a duty of care, including finding alternative accommodation and flights where necessary, to those caught up in a hurricane.
Independent travellers have flight rights under European Union regulations, and may have relevant travel insurance cover where their policy includes extraordinary circumstances such as hurricanes, but getting help or recompense will be less straightforward.