Where Do Hurricanes Strike?

September 22, 2016
Where do hurricanes occur?


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As this busy hurricane season reaches its halfway point, it would be nice to know—where do hurricanes occur most and where are you most safe?

It turns out that that is a major question. Not even Las Vegas, Nevada is totally safe! And if you live in Florida, forget about it. 


From 1842 to 2012, tropical storms (green) and hurricanes (purple through yellow) have battered large areas throughout North America. Source: NOAA

As the map above shows, the US, east of the Mississippi is the parade ground of tropical storms. Notice: this is actual named storms. This map would not show the New Jersey landfall of Hurricane Sandy because, by the time Sandy landed, it was no longer tropical, just stormy. However, the West has not been totally safe. San Diego was pounded by a hurricane in 1858 and tropical storms have invaded the Southwest Desert.

A less attractive (and focused) FEMA map breaks storm hits by county. The dark regions have been trampled by 65 to 141 storms, blue counties had 29 to 64 hits and yellow had less than 29. Check to see how safe your county is.


It’s not perfect but this FEMA map shows 161 years of where hurricanes and tropical storms hit.

Note that the data for this map goes back to the 1800s for the eastern U.S. but only as far back as 1949 in the West.

What the map shows is that the U.S. coast from South Texas to Southeast Virginia is a playground for hurricanes and Florida is where they live. Indeed, this year Tropical Storm Julia formed OVER Jacksonville, Florida. That’s right. The tropical storm formed over LAND. It was the first time a tropical storm was created over land since TS. Beryl originated over Southeast Louisiana in 1988.


The odds of any 50 miles of coastline being hit by a hurricane Source: NHC/TPC

Let’s translate this data. What are the odds, every year, that a hurricane will hit some part of the US coast? Florida, with its long coast is the Number 1 target, followed by South Texas.

Only 10 of the fifty states have not been hit by a tropical storm and most of them have to endure blizzards, hardly an improvement. 


Alaska was hit by a non-tropical cyclone blizzard with winds of 122 mph. Source: CIRA

So fasten your seatbelts, my friends. We’re in for a bumpy ride.



About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

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Southern Colorado

This is a question. Why is there so little perception and rain fall in Southern Colorado. What are the chances of this changing in the next decade.

Hurricane level of water based on moon phase and flood tide

I am a retired Science Teacher. You might want to add this to your great web page:
Hurricane Considerations:
1) As the storm arrives at the same time the moon phase is either new or full, the coastal surge of water flooding inland will be much greater (than if the moon phase is first or third quarter).
2) If high tide is arriving during the storm, the storm surge pushing inland will cause much greater flood devastation. If low tide, not quite so bad.
3) Consider the circular shape and speed of the storm as it moves towards its target. If the left front side (left quadrant) of the storm hits the target, the wind and storm surge will have less damage due to the left wind's direction moving away from the target.
4) If the right side quadrant of the storm's circular motion hits the target, both the storm's ground speed and wind speed will combine together hitting the target with much more wind and surge devastation!!!
5) Remember, ask yourself a few things before the storm hits: What's the moon phase? When will the storm arrive? Will it be high or low tide? Will my location be hit with the left quadrant or the stronger right quadrant?
6) Finally, consider what elevation is your location?

Thank you for making these great points!

These are excellent points for people to consider, especially with Hurricane Matthew approaching. This is especially true given the fact half of the US population now lives within 50 miles of the coastlines.

Remember, historically, hills like Nob Hill and Beacon Hill were where rich people lived and the slums and fishing shacks were close to the coastlines. Rich coastal property was usually “cottages” or vacation homes. It wasn’t because the rich liked climbing but because high altitude property was safer from floods and had a great view. A lot of recent property development has been in higher risk areas.  


i don't think we should not have hurricanes ever again it has been killing people everyyear
just take hurricanes away forever.

greg jackson

Unfortunately, this has been

Unfortunately, this has been a deadly year with every storm except Flora and Ian affecting land. As a weather addict, I always hope for a huge interesting storm that trudges down the middle of the Atlantic without hurting anyone. Hopefully the rest of this season will be safer.

Reply to Greg Jackson

Greg -
You're a fool. Get some science training.

Thanks So Much, Ms Evelyn :)

Thanks So Much, Ms Evelyn :) ,
I love your blogs/webpages/articles, they are always relevant for me! Also, fun to read and easy to understand for this weather newbie (me) !!!

Thank you so much for your

Thank you so much for your kind comment. Most of the time, as a consultant, I have to be very scientific when I write about weather. For the Almanac, I can just enjoy sharing how interesting and fun it is to watch and understand the weather.

Here's hoping the hurricanes don't bother you or those you care about.


+ a 4-season guide to raising chickens!

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