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June 2001 Vol. 16, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Hurricanes, Diving and You

from the June, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Looks like this year will be a “normal” hurricane season in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts as many as 11 tropical storms --- including five to seven hurricanes.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, and while August through October are typically the most active months, even the most intense hurricanes can strike anytime during the season.

For dive travelers, any place in the Caribbean, Central America or the Bahamas can be risky, but satellites today enable forecasters to give up to three days warning, though where a hurricane will strike the coast is still subject to error by as much as 200 miles.

The biggest danger is not wave surge, but inland flooding where the storm’s heavy rains raise water levels. Since 1970, 82 percent of Americans killed by hurricanes were drowned. So, the rush to leave an island in the path or a hurricane is more a panic reaction than a necessary choice. If you’re in a solid hotel or away from the beach and flood possibilities, you might just as well ride out the storm and buy a memorial T-shirt. That’s what I did when Hurricane Gilbert slammed into the Caymans in 1988. Overall, it was a great adventure.

While a hurricane can muck up a dive vacation, there’s only a remote chance that your destination will be affected. Islands to the south like Tobago, Curacao and Bonaire are beyond the hurricane belt (though big waves demolished coral on Curacao and Bonaire two years ago). If hurricane season were the only time I could head to the Greater Caribbean, I’d give it a go and take my chances. And look for bargains. Many dive resorts cut prices in the summer because, after all, it’s hurricane season.

-Ben Davison

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