Due to the nature of archipelago islands and Turks and Caicos’ position within the tropical Atlantic, the islands are at risk of tropical cyclones during the hurricane season. Although they are relatively uncommon, hurricanes have been known to affect the island and are something that travelers should bear in mind when arranging their trip to the area.
Most recently, Turks and Caicos was hit by the two extremely powerful category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, within a number of days of each other in September 2017. In this month the whole Caribbean suffered devastating effects of one of the worst hurricane seasons on record. It is understandable that for this reason, travelers to the region are taking measures to learn more about the hurricane season and how it could affect them in the future.
It is important to note that despite 2017’s events, hurricanes are still relatively uncommon in Turks and Caicos. On average, the islands are directly hit by one hurricane every seven years, and one passes nearby around every two years. When the islands are affected by tropical storms, recovery is undertaken quickly and infrastructure repairs, where needed, progress rapidly to restore the islands to normal working order.
Something that visitors will notice when traveling to the region, is the level of pride and care that the residents have for their islands, how hard they work to preserve them and nurture them again following adverse weather. The team at Big Blue Unlimited are no different and we hold the beauty and nature of our islands in the utmost regard. That’s why we arrange eco-friendly trips and activities to help protect our beautiful environment.
When is hurricane season?
Hurricane season occurs in the summer months in Turks and Caicos. Between June and November is typically the rainy season on the islands, and this is also the season which is most at threat of hurricanes. According to historical data, the risk of experiencing a hurricane peaks in September, and three out of four of all hurricanes will occur between August and October.
Tropical storms and hurricanes can affect all countries in the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the most powerful hurricanes are known as Cabo Verde hurricanes, as they originate off the coast of Africa and pass westwards across the Atlantic Ocean. Although most eventually disappear over the sea, some reach the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
On average, there are generally around 12 tropical storms each year in the Atlantic region. Of these 12, 6 will evolve into hurricanes and of these, 3 will become major hurricanes. It is important to note that of all the hurricanes experienced during each season, most do not make landfall on the Turks and Caicos Islands.
What classifies as a hurricane?
The term ‘hurricane’ occurs when a tropical cyclone surpasses sustained wind speeds of 73mph. The severity of the hurricane is rated according to the Saffir-Simpson scale as follows:
- Category One: 74 – 95 mph
- Category Two: 96 – 110 mph
- Category Three: 111 – 129 mph
- Category Four: 130 – 156 mph
- Category Five: ≤157 mph
Between 39 – 73 mph, cyclones are known as a tropical storm and may further progress into a hurricane. Likewise, hurricanes can downgrade into a tropical storm before they reach land. All tropical cyclones begin as tropical depression, where low pressure areas are accompanied by thunderstorms, and produce a circular wind flow which can turn into a cyclone.
What effect do hurricanes have on Turks and Caicos?
Despite what you may initially think, the most damaging effect of hurricanes on the islands is not the high wind speeds alone, but instead the storm surge which occurs as a result of the tropical weather. Almost half of Turks and Caicos land is low elevation, as the islands are made up of many wetlands and saline flats which are close to sea level. There are no mountainous or high-elevation regions on the islands and as a result, the effects of flooding on Turks and Caicos can be severe.
However, one of the natural forms of protection for Turks and Caicos is the level of the ocean floor surrounding the islands. Sitting on a plateau, they are protected from the occurrence of extreme storm surges, which are more common on other Caribbean islands. This natural barrier means that waves do not reach the huge heights that they may do in other regions and the effects of the weather are reduced.
Should you travel in hurricane season?
Even during hurricane season, the occurrence of this type of weather is still very uncommon and many people still travel to Turks and Caicos within the summer months. This season is also known as the rainy period on the islands; the annual rainfall is around 27 inches which, when compared to over 59 inches in Florida, does not seem that much. Most of this rainfall comes from passing tropical storms, as opposed to standard rainfall that inland territories experience.
During the summer season, temperatures peak at around 95⁰C and 35⁰C. Due to the hotter, damper weather and risk of hurricanes, many tour operators and hotel resorts offer largely discounted rates to tourists in the summer, with prices reduced by up to 40% compared to peak season. Thanks to the cost effective travel options, many travelers still choose this time to explore Turks and Caicos, to beat the crowds of tourists and to enjoy quieter beaches and resorts. At Big Blue Unlimited, we experience great visitor numbers all year round, and the summer is no exception. We have a number of activities available that can help you enjoy everything the islands have to offer in the summer.
When the islands are at risk of tropical storms, the American Red Cross app is one of the many resources that can be used for advice and it provides storm updates for travelers and residents. Generally, tourists will have at least one week’s advance warning of any storms that are due and air operators will put on additional flights out of the area to return visitors home before the weather affects the airports.
If you have travel insurance, it is worth checking for a ‘cancel for any reason’ (CFAR) clause in your agreement, which could mean that you can rearrange your trip for another time in the year. If you have not yet taken our travel insurance, you may want to consider including this option to be on the safe side.
What else should you know before travelling in hurricane season?
One of the most notable annoyances about travelling in hurricane season is, in fact, the increased level of mosquitos. Due to high level of rainfall and potential flooding, travelers in the summer months will be prone to bites from mosquitos and no-see-ums. It is therefore advisable to bring a strong bug repellent spray, and carry it on you to top up throughout the day.
Furthermore, due to the hotter temperatures experienced during the summer months, travelers should bring high protection sun block and ensure that they spend time in the shade to protect their skin and take a break from the sun’s harsh rays.
Overall, travelers that wish to visit Turks and Caicos during the summer months often have an enjoyable and relatively cheap vacation, away from the crowds and enjoying beautiful weather. It is important to remember that the risk of hurricanes is relatively low, but suitable precautions such as adequate travel insurance should be taken. To find out more about traveling to Turks and Caicos in the summer months and how to make the most of a vacation to these stunning islands, contact the team at Big Blue Unlimited today.