For over half of the year, there is an increased risk of hurricane development in the Keys. For the other half of the year, the Keys are considered a tropical paradise. What is the safest time to travel to the islands?
While hurricane "season" officially begins June 1, ending November 30th, the recorded impact of hurricanes on coastal Florida and the Keys in the past 100 years has been during a short, six-week period between August 15th and the first of October. On average, the land impact of a hurricane effect on coastal Florida is about once every two years, whereas the Keys and Key West feel the impact of a hurricane only once every 4.5 years.
What exactly is a hurricane? A hurricane is a tropical cyclone on steroids! While a tropical storm or depression carries with it 40 mph winds, a hurricane is pushing 80 mph winds with thunderstorm activity within the cyclone, and is given a name by the National Weather Service. With the designation of a name comes a category rating of 1 through 5 with category 5 being the most severe. The last recorded land effect impact of a hurricane in Key West was Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
According to the National Hurricane Center, many experts speculate that this lull in land effect hurricanes is the calm before the storm, predicting 2014 and 2015 to bring more tropical depressions and potential category 4 and 5 hurricanes.
Islanders don't seem phased by this looming prediction. Executive Chef Brendan Orr of the Key West restaurant, the Roof Top Cafe dismisses the predictions. "We on the island can't look at it that way. We count our lucky stars and don't worry about what 'might' happen," the Chef offered with a smile. "If we spend six months of the year worried about things outside of our own control, we wouldn't stay in paradise long."
Those bound for destination weddings also seem un-phased by the doomsday predictions…choosing to ignore the experts and use the tropical paradise for outdoor dining for the reception, and a beach front island wedding with the ideal sunset as a back drop. The threat of hurricanes seems unimportant.
"The whole summer is hurricane season," stated bride to be, Renee W. of Eau Claire, WI. "If I let that scare me off, I wouldn't be planning my dream wedding. Believe me, I'm more frightened of the wedding going off without a hitch...a hurricane doesn't scare me."
For more information on hurricane season, visit www.fla-keys.com and to learn more about the Roof Top Cafe, visit: www.rooftopcafekeywest.com
JD Arbuckle is a freelance journalist specializing in consumer education on a variety of topics including hurricane season in Southern Florida.