What You Need To Know About Hurricane Season Travel
Photo courtesy of NASA
It’s Hurricane Season.
The Atlantic Hurricane season, that is, when the winds blow in westerly off the coast of Africa toward the Caribbean and southern United States. Most of these storms lose power as they churn across the ocean, even failing to form as a tropical storm; many do not, and can wreak tremendous havoc and interrupt the travel plans of millions.
The Weather Channel says the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season will be slightly more active than 2015, according to the latest season forecast released Wednesday by Colorado State University. Dr. Phil Klotzbach, CSU lead forecaster, expects to see 14 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes this season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has two new supercomputers that can better predict storms and increase the warning time from a day or two to a little longer lead time for landfall and evacuation purposes. But they certainly aren’t super enough to tell you now, in June, exactly when or where a hurricane might hit in, say, August. It all makes travel preparations a bit cautious, to say the least.
So here are a few things to know about Hurricane Season.
Like the Boy Scouts always say, be prepared.
• If traveling abroad, enroll in the State Dept.’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Enrolling in STEP lets you sign up to receive important information from the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
• Follow the instructions of local authorities concerning security and evacuation. Doing so could save your life.
• Monitor local radio, television, and other sources of information to stay aware of any weather developments in the area. Minor tropical storms can quickly develop into dangerous storms, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation.
• Keep in touch with your tour operators, hotel staff, cruise company, airlines, and local officials for evacuation instructions.
• Always carry with you the telephone number and address for both your hotel and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
A must, must, must-have. According to travel insurance expert Allianz, there are some common misconceptions about insurance and hurricanes that you should know.
• In order for your travel insurance plan to cover a weather-related cancellation, the hurricane or other weather event must force your airline, cruise line or tour operator to stop offering all services for at least 24 hours. Once that happens, your travel insurance would reimburse you for non-refundable travel costs.
• If a hurricane causes a cruise line or tour operator to offer an alternate itinerary — whether a different destination or different dates — you must accept the change. Travel insurance is designed to protect you from financial loss, and if the substitute itinerary is the same value as your original trip, you haven't suffered a loss.
• If your destination is uninhabitable because of a natural disaster, Allianz Global Assistance’s travel insurance considers that a covered reason for trip cancellation or interruption. "Uninhabitable" means there has been enough damage to make a reasonable person find their accommodation unfit for use. This definition can't be stretched to include minor inconveniences, however. If the golf course is closed because of storm damage, or if the resort places you in a garden-view suite because the oceanfront rooms aren't habitable, that's not sufficient reason for cancellation. Also, pre-emptive evacuations ordered by local authorities are not covered.
When, and if, to evacuate is always a tough call. Most wait until the bitter end and find clogged roads trying to get inland from the storm. Some thoughts:
• Err on the side of caution. Getting out a couple of days early is always better than trying to leave six hours before predicted landfall.
• Carry an old-fashioned road map. GPS service might be disrupted by a storm. And know the evacuation routes ahead of time.
• Always keep your car filled with gas as a precaution if on a road trip. You never know how long you will be stuck in traffic or how many gas stations you encounter that have run out of fuel.
• ALWAYS carry plenty of cash.
RIDING OUT THE STORM WHEN TRAVELING
If staying at a hotel and for some reason you can’t evacuate, such as not being able to book a flight, try to take precautions even before arriving.
• While a view is great, your room really should be away from the ocean. Move furniture and other items against the window.
• Get an upstairs floor.
• Stockpile necessities beforehand, like non-perishable foods and water bottles. Load up the room fridge with food and keep it as cold as the settings will allow in case the electricity goes out.
• Keep electronics charged right up until you lose power.
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