Where Do Hurricanes Strike?

September 22, 2016
Where do hurricanes occur?

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

Mike Steinberg is Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives at AccuWeather Inc in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the National Weather Association and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.