The Atlantic hurricane season, which officially lasts from June 1 through November 30, includes tropical storms and hurricanes that hit the Atlantic basin: the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.
An average Atlantic hurricane season includes:
- 14 named storms (with sustained winds of 39 mph or greater)
- 7 hurricanes (tropical storms with sustained winds of 74 mph or greater)
- 3 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher, with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater)
This season typically follows a certain trend, with the first named storm forming in June, the first hurricane in August, and the first major hurricane late in August or early in September. The season’s peak is usually September. From 1851 to 2020, there were 414 September hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. The second highest month was August, with 248 hurricanes, followed by October, with 217.
In addition to following a trend related to the strength of the storms, there is a recognizable pattern associated with the regions that are most likely to be hit by hurricanes, and at what point in the season. This can give us some prediction as to which areas of the United States are more likely to be hit by a named storm, hurricane, or major hurricane as the Atlantic hurricane season progresses.
Of all U.S. states, Florida is the most likely to be hit by a hurricane. From 1851 to 2020, the state was hit by 120 hurricanes. Texas, which came in second, was hit by 64.
Florida is a prime target for hurricane activity for two reasons:
- Location, location, location. Florida is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Located in the subtropics, Florida has warm, humid weather most of the year. Tropical winds and warm water are the norm along the Florida coast, which are prime conditions for hurricanes to form—or for storms that form out in the ocean to build in strength even as they approach the coast. Once hurricanes make landfall, they start to run out of fuel (warm moist air rising from the ocean), but they can still do a significant amount of damage. They can even travel back out to the ocean and make landfall again.
- The size and shape of the state. Most of Florida is a peninsula, protruding from North America and almost entirely surrounded by water. It is long and narrow, and it has more coastline than any other state, other than Alaska. In total, Florida boasts 1,350 miles of coastline. With more miles of coastline exposed to storms, there’s an increased risk of hurricane strikes.
Hurricane Ian was the most recent Atlantic hurricane to hit Florida, and it was the deadliest storm to hit the state since 1935. Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on mainland Florida on September 28, 2022, with sustained winds of 145 mph. It also hit western Cuba and struck near Georgetown, South Carolina. In all, 157 deaths have been attributed to Hurricane Ian. 146 of those lost were in Florida.
Florida is more likely to be hit by severe tropical storms later in the Atlantic hurricane season, in September or even October.
Texas comes in second for the highest number of hurricanes that have made landfall since 1851. A total of 64 hurricanes have struck Texas, spread nearly evenly across the northern, central, and southern parts of the state.
The state’s location in the Gulf of Mexico and its extensive coastline are both reasons that Texas has the second-highest number of hurricanes in the United States. The water in the Gulf of Mexico is not as deep as the Atlantic and other parts of the ocean, which leads to warmer water temperatures—and a higher likelihood of tropical storms and hurricanes. Statistically, August is the month when Texas is most likely to be hit by a hurricane.
Louisiana comes in at a close third for the most hurricanes that have made landfall from 1851 to 2020, with 62. Just one of these storms was a Category 5 hurricane: Camille. Hurricane Camille struck Louisiana and Mississippi as a Category 5 storm in 1969. Wind-recording instruments in the area could not record the storm’s wind speeds because they were destroyed, but some estimate that it reached about 175 mph along the coast. At least 143 deaths were attributed to Camille in the Gulf Coast alone; another 113 lives were lost from related flash flooding in Virginia and West Virginia.
North Carolina was hit by 58 hurricanes between 1851 and 2020, making it fourth on the list of U.S. states most likely to be struck by these devastating weather events. All but 7 of the 58 hurricanes that made landfall in North Carolina were Category 1 or Category 2 hurricanes, and the state has only experienced one Category 4 hurricane. No Category 5 hurricanes have hit North Carolina.
North Carolina is more prone to hurricane strikes than its neighboring states because its coastline extends out into the Atlantic Ocean. Every area of the state has been impacted by a hurricane in the past 20 years.
Will Your State Be Hit? Predicting Where Hurricanes Will Strike
Following is a list of states where hurricanes have made landfall (1851-2020):
- Florida: 120
- Texas: 64
- Louisiana: 62
- North Carolina: 58
- South Carolina: 31
- Alabama: 23
- Georgia: 21
- New York: 15
- Mississippi: 14
- Virginia: 13
- Massachusetts: 12
- Connecticut: 11
- Rhode Island: 10
- New Jersey: 4
- Maine: 3
- Maryland: 2
- Delaware: 2
- Pennsylvania: 1
- New Hampshire: 1
If you live in any of these states, there is a chance of hurricane activity, particularly in the coastal areas. Being aware of the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 through November 30) and following weather advisories are your best options, so you know whether to buckle down and ride out a storm or heed evacuation notices if they impact your area. The CDC offers helpful information on this topic: Preparing for a Hurricane or Other Tropical Storm.