It’s been a tragic week in the Caribbean. Hurricane Irma has swept across the region, hitting several of the Caribbean islands and causing catastrophic losses for those who live there. It’s also disrupted the business that supports many of these islands, tourism, and dashed the plans of thousands of travellers. If you’ve been watching the news with dismay, you may be asking: where can you travel safely this time of year? Are there any places that don’t get hurricanes?
It’s not an idle question. Just in the past two weeks, Texas has been hit with massive damage from Hurricane Harvey, followed by the assault of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean. Houston’s airports were closed for days, and this week, four cruise lines – Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Disney – cancelled, diverted or rescheduled cruises to the Caribbean.
Summer and fall have always been hurricane season in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, with the fallout continuing up through Florida and the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. As well, hurricanes have been known to hit parts of the Pacific and Asia, making landfall in places like Australia. the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan.
So, are there any places that don’t get hurricanes? Happily, the answer is yes. There are some cities and regions that lie too far from the major hurricane zones to be at high risk. That includes much of Europe, and some parts of North America: in fact, there’s a list of 24 U.S. cities that have never been hit by a hurricane.
Here are a few of the best choices if you want to enjoy a holiday with minimal risk of a hurricane sweeping in. Remember, though, that nothing is 100 percent certain; with the world’s climate changing, it’s always wise to check the weather forecast before you travel.
It’s big, it’s brash, it’s full of shiny hotels and slot machines – and it’s too far inland for hurricanes to reach (at least, so far). Las Vegas is still one of the favourite getaways spots for North Americans and people from the rest of the world. There’s lots to do, from stage shows to museums to roller coasters helicopter rides. And oh, yes, you can also gamble …
Hurricanes do sometimes hit the Pacific coast, but few of them get as far north as San Francisco and Napa Valley. The City by the Bay is a great destination, with its cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf and the famous Chinatown. Then there’s Napa Valley: take a side trip to visit the wineries, eat some good food and enjoy the California lifestyle.
Speaking of the north Pacific Coast, another great hurricane-safe spot is Vancouver Island, one of Canada’s true beauty spots. Spend a few days enjoying the quaint charm of Victoria, then head out to enjoy the magnificent British Columbia forest. There’s whale watching, wineries, golf and great fishing to keep you busy. Yes, there are Pacific storms, but people here consider them entertainment — there’s actually a storm watch resort.
Hurricanes tend to move westward across the Atlantic and then curve north toward the U.S. coast. Few last long enough to circle back to Europe, and those that do tend to hit the British isles. Spain does get hit occasionally, but luckily, Madrid is far enough from the coast to escape most of the weather. The Spanish capital is a fascinating city to visit, with the Prado and Reina Sofia museums, the royal palace, flamenco dancing and even bullfights — olé!
This city seems to make every one of my lists. But aside from being a city special enough to make my list of places that will steal your heart, Paris is also far enough inland that it misses the few hurricanes that do touch France. So visit at any time of year, and enjoy the art, the architecture, the food, the history, and the magic that is Europe’s cultural capital.
Stockholm and Copenhagen
Both Stockholm and the Danish capital of Copenhagen are far enough east on the Baltic Sea to miss most of the hurricanes that do make it to Europe (some do hit Norway, further west). And these are brilliant cities, with their well-preserved old quarters and iconic buildings like Stockholm’s historic town hall and Copenhagen’s Rosenborg Castle. They’re great places to walk and explore, and the food is delicious and unique. But don’t stay too long – these cities aren’t cheap.
And a couple of ifs …
I’d never advise anyone to travel to the hurricane zone with a big storm in the area. But if you really have your heart set on a southern destination when things are calm, there are some places that are safer than others. The big storms usually run along a track called Hurricane Alley, which goes from around the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and sweeps north toward south Florida. Places outside that track are less likely to get a direct hit – though tropical storms are still a possibility. Here are a couple of choices.
Curaçao and Aruba
These islands in the Dutch Caribbean are located down near South America, south of Hurricane Alley. They sometimes get big tropical storms, with lots of rain, but the major hurricanes usually pass them by. These are nice places to visit — particularly Curaçao, with its multicoloured, Dutch-style buildings lining the waterfront. If you like to gamble, casinos are Aruba’s specialty. And of course, you can just lie on the beach and make sure there no storms coming …
South Florida is right in the cross-hairs when it comes to hurricanes. But the northern half of the state fares better; most hurricanes tend to do most of their damage when they first hit land. The area around Jacksonville is safer than Miami if you’re worried about hurricanes. And the further inland you are, the better — though no part of Florida is completely safe. Historically, the Tampa Bay area has been safer from the big storms, as well, but recent reports indicate Irma is headed for that area.
So, are there places that don’t get hurricanes? The answer is a qualified yes. The cities and regions listed here are about as safe as you can get these days, so enjoy. But with the earth’s climate changing continually, no one really knows where these storms will hit in the future.
Can you vacation in Hurricane Alley in the middle of hurricane season and get home safely? In most cases, yes. But it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the weather report.