Growing up near the east coast of Florida, hurricane knowledge was drilled into me at an early age. But for those visiting Florida for the first time, here is what you need to know if a hurricane threatens the coast during your vacation.
Guest and Crew Member safety is the
number one priority of any cruise.
In this article
Tropical Depression: Once a group of thunderstorms has come together under the right atmospheric conditions for a long enough time, they may organize into a tropical depression. Winds near the center are constantly between 20 and 34 knots (23 – 39 mph).
Tropical Storm: Once a tropical depression has intensified to the point where its maximum sustained winds are between 35-64 knots (39-73 mph), it becomes a tropical storm. It is at this time that it is assigned a name. During this time, the storm itself becomes more organized and begins to become more circular in shape — resembling a hurricane.
Hurricane: The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. (From the National Hurricane Center/NOAA)
- Category 1: Sustained winds from 74-95 mph. Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
- Category 2: Sustained winds from 96-100 mph. Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
- Category 3: Sustained winds from 111-129 mph. Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
- Category 4: Sustained winds from 130-156 mph. Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
- Category 5: Sustained winds greater than 157 mph. Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a Category 4 hurricane as it made landfall north of Miami.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 fluctuated in strength but was a Category 3 storm when it hit the Louisiana coast.
Hurricane Sandy in 2012 hit the Northeastern coast. While its windspeed classified it as a Category 2 hurricane, its diameter made it the largest hurricane on record: 1,100 miles (1,800 km).
Hurricane Harvey in 2017 struck the coast of Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. It remained a named storm for 117 hours, leading to catastrophic flooding.
So, should you avoid planning a cruise during Hurricane Season?
Considering Hurricane Season runs from June 1 – November 1, I would say no. That’s five months out of the year.
5/12=0.4166666667 or 42% of the year.
Who says math isn’t fun? And with kids out of school, summer is a very popular time to cruise.
Disney Cruise Line Hurricane Response
The most common response to any weather threat is to simply steer around the storm system. Each ship is equipped with state of the art meteorological equipment to allow the captain to track – and ideally avoid – bad weather in the region.
Safety is a priority. To avoid storms Disney Cruise Line will
- alter the order of ports of call.
- cancel port calls when a storm cannot be avoided otherwise.
- create a new itinerary to sail in a different direction from the storm.
- cancel or postpone cruises — only as a last resort.
Also, if it is unsafe to return to the final port of departure, a cruise may be extended by a day or two. This happened in 2016 when the Disney Fantasy could not return to Port Canaveral on time following Hurricane Matthew.
What Should You Do if a Hurricane Threatens Your Cruise?
- Pay attention to your email. You will know in the week leading up to your cruise if a hurricane is looming in the Atlantic Ocean. Disney will communicate course alterations leading up to the cruise via email.
- Be flexible. Your ports of call may change, altering or canceling your Port Adventures. Be patient. Disney Cruise Line will provide a new list of available Port Adventures as soon as possible.
- Look for the silver lining. Disney will do all in it’s power to ensure your cruise sails on time. However, if your cruise is delayed or canceled, Disney has historically been generous with refunds and discounts on future cruises.
- Always buy trip insurance. While DCL is generous with refunds when a sailing is cancelled, that does nothing to reimburse airfare or the cost of lodging.