What months are hurricane season in Key West?
Best and Worst Times to Visit Key West Florida
The best time to visit Key West in Florida depends on what cruise and hotel visitors plan to do when they get there.
Key West is a growing cruise port at the southern tip of Florida. It is a popular port of call with cruises that leave from Miami and Fort Lauderdale for the eastern Caribbean.
The best time to visit Key West for a combination of warm temperatures and low risk of rain is April and May. The worst time to visit Key West is August and especially September for a high risk of rain from the annual Caribbean hurricane season.
Visitors who favor land activities will find that winter also is a good time to go. Visitors who favor water activities may want to go from late spring to early summer.
|© 2021 Scott S. Bateman|
Average daytime temperatures range from the mid 70s Fahrenheit or low 20s Celsius in the winter to the high 80s Fahrenheit or low 30s Celsius in the summer.
But the winter months also are part of the dry season while the late summer months are part of the rainy season.
Key West Weather By Month
January: The average daytime temperature is 74 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of two inches and six days during the month.
February: The average daytime temperature is 76 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of less than two inches and five days during the month.
March: The average daytime temperature is 78 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of two inches and six days during the month.
April: The average daytime temperature is 81 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of two inches and five days during the month.
|© 2021 Scott S. Bateman|
May: The average daytime temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of three inches and seven days during the month.
June: The average daytime temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of four inches and 11 days during the month.
July: The average daytime temperature is 89 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of four inches and 12 days during the month.
August: The average daytime temperature is 89 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of five inches and 14 days during the month.
September: The average daytime temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of seven inches and 16 days during the month.
October: The average daytime temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of five inches and 11 days during the month.
November: The average daytime temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of two inches and seven days during the month.
December: The average daytime temperature is 76 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains an average of two inches and six days during the month.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
What months are hurricane season in Key West?
Percentage wise the Keys were much better off than the rest of the state with only one of nine hurricanes making landfall in the Keys. Our neighbor to the north, Miami, however experienced its worst hurricane of its recorded history. The Florida building boom was dying but the early September hurricane surely doomed it for Miami. Two thousand housing were destroyed and 113 people confirmed dead. Dinner Key in Biscayne Bay reported a 13.2 foot tidal surge.
In the 1930s there were six years without a hurricane, but this was the decade that prompted this web page. There were two hurricanes in 1935, one in the Keys and one just north. The Labor Day Hurricane of September 2 is the main focus and will be discussed at length later. The second hurricane of 1935, known by some as Hurricane Yankee, striking the Fort Lauderdale area struck fear for those in the Florida Keys. Two hurricanes made landfall twice.
The 1940s were hurricane years for the Keys, a total of 10. Only three years without a hurricane and two years in a row there were two. However, during most of WW II in 1942 and 43 there was not even a tropical storm. In the 40s highway US-1 was improved, and public electricity and drinking water were finally a part of then Keys living. When WW II was over, residential and business growth became a part of life. The war had perfected RADAR and better electronic communications.
The 1950s started out to be as bad as the 1940s, but was a good decade for Florida. A total of four and none in the Keys. Seven years without a single hurricane, and it was the year that names were given. No hurricanes in the Keys and new residents moved to the Keys. One thing that attracted new residents and also retained older residents with children was the opening of Coral High School in 1952. Television antennas began to be seen on house roofs. In 1958 names were assigned at becoming a tropical storm.
The 1960s showed what life in Hurricane Alley was like. Only the Lower Keys were spared. And for Florida, there were three hurricanes in one year — 1964, plus Donna counted as two — striking the Keys and the west coast. Even worse, Donna was a category 4 hurricane bringing with it significant storm surges throughout the Middle and Upper Keys. Donna signaled the beginning of stilt houses for lower elevations. Betsy is a kind of hurricane we in the Keys should be aware of. It was tracking safety northward and well past the Keys out in the Atlantic when it did a loop and headed southwest to come back to strike the Upper Keys.
As far as totals, the 1970s were the best years of the twentieth century. The winds and storm surges of Hurricane Donna and Betsy were quickly forgotten. These hurricanes made land very inexpensive and growth became rampant in the Keys. The cheapest land were the wetlands and it could be dredged and filled for housing developments. Huge projects were on the books and the state stepped in and designated the islands of Monroe County as an Area of Critical State Concern in 1974. In 1968 the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created as a purely voluntary program In 1773 legislation imposed severe economic sanctions on communities that did not participate. In 1974 Monroe County joined and mortgage companies made it mandatory to have flood insurance. FEMA was given regulatory jurisdiction.
If the 70 were good, the 1980s were better. There was one slight scare when tropical storm Floyd winds exceeded 74 mph right at the Tortugas, but it never strengthen much. In fact, many believe it dropped to tropical storm winds part of the time. There were eight years without a hurricane. In fact, the last real hurricane was in 1966 and Inez was not bad — Betsy in 1965 was! Betsy was the Keys last major hurricane being a category 3.
Florida began to feel like a hurricane state once again in the 1990s. First, it was the strong category 4 hurricane Andrew in 1992 causing the largest dollar amount of damage ever. Fortunately, it passed a little south of metropolitan Miami, but like any category 4 hurricane it wreaked havoc. Not counting Hurricane Floyd, hurricanes Georges and Irene were the first Keys hurricanes since Hurricane Betsy in 1965.
— Hurricanes by Month — —
Before proceeding with Hurricanes by the month and to allow space for images, a small hurricane location/tracking is provided. Click the thumbnail chart to enlarge, then the back arrow to return. Longitude and latitude coordinates are needed to track hurricanes. Colored pens or stick pins also work well. A log of time, date, wind and other information is suggested. The chart should print on regular paper. The chart had no distance scale, but for an approximation, there are 70 miles between one degree of latitude. Also it is about 440 miles from Miami to the eastern edge of Acklins Islands in the Bahama Islands.
The previous decade data is good historical or trend data, but hardly useful in day to day life. The following have both uses. The official hurricane season runs from June through November; however, most of the hurricanes occur in September and October as will be seen later. The following maps will depict the same hurricanes of the previous maps, but by the month in which they occurred. The thing the author wishes to point out in June is that four of the five hurricanes came up from the south or originated in the western Caribbean.
The directions which the hurricanes approach are generally easterly by the end of July. However, it is now two months into the six month hurricane season, of which there were 59 hurricanes in these 100 years, and only eight or 13.6 percent of the hurricanes have made landfall.
Almost twice as many hurricanes made landfall in August as did the previous two months. They are now all approaching from the south east. Of the 59 total, 15 or about 39 percent, have now made landfall at about mid-season, one of these being Andrew on August 22, 1992. The ancient mariners poem of «August — look out you must» is indeed good advise.
The recited «September — Remember» from the Mariners poem is apropos for this month. Over time the months run together, but September is Hurricane Month in Florida. In the 30 days of September, eight more hurricanes made landfall on the Florida coast than in the past 92 days of June, July and August. The total hurricanes for the twentieth century is now 38, or 64 percent of the 59.
October is to be remembered also. It had two more hurricanes that June, July and August had in total (15) and only five less than September. By far the majority of the hurricanes are once again approaching from the south and south west, or the western Caribbean. These hurricanes can be relatively near the Keys without the customarily weeks of notice. Of the 59 hurricanes, 55, or 93 percent of the hurricanes have made landfall.
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When a Hurricane Threatens
Traveling to the Florida Keys
During Hurricane Season
In the Florida Keys, the same forces that create balmy breezes and warm waves also can bring high winds, heavy rain and tidal surges.
Because they are on the northern fringe of the Caribbean, the Florida Keys occasionally are threatened by tropical cyclones, a generic name for a low-pressure weather system with organized thunderstorm activity and circular winds. When the wind speed of a tropical cyclone reaches a sustained 74 mph, it is classified a hurricane.
In the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean tropical cyclones can present a threat to most Caribbean countries, eastern Mexico, and North American coastal areas from Texas through Nova Scotia.
Shannon Weiner (standing), Monroe County Emergency Management Director, oversees an annual hurricane preparedness workshop held at the Emergency Operations Center in Marathon.
Fortunately, modern-day tropical weather forecasting provides ample time for preparation to protect lives and property.
The Monroe County (Florida Keys) Tourist Development Council (TDC) has a formal communications program that is tightly coordinated with local emergency management officials to provide crucial information to help visitors safely exit the Florida Keys in the event a hurricane threatens the region.
Example of an official Keys tourism advisory
Because the Florida Keys tourism industry cares about the safety of the island chain’s visitors, the TDC endeavors to provide honest, trustworthy information about traveling to the Keys, and even advises people when it is not appropriate to travel in the unlikely event of a storm threat.
The TDC’s visitor safety program has been an award-winning model for other destinations in hurricane-prone regions. In 2007 both the National (U.S.) and Florida Hurricane Conferences for the first time honored the Keys programs with public awareness awards.
Frequently Asked Questions
About Traveling to the Florida Keys During Hurricane Season
What is a hurricane?
The terms «hurricane» and «typhoon» are region-specific names for a strong tropical cyclone. A tropical cyclone is the generic term for a low-pressure weather system formed over tropical or subtropical waters with thunderstorm activity and surface wind circulation. Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 39 mph are called tropical depressions. Once a tropical cyclone reaches winds of at least 39 mph it is typically called a tropical storm and assigned a name. In the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, once the winds reach 74 mph, the system is called a hurricane. There are five hurricane wind scale categories, increasing in severity from Category 1 to Category 5.
When is hurricane season?
The Atlantic hurricane season formally begins June 1 and ends November 30. Historically, the chances of hurricane activity are greater between August 15 and October 15.
Can I travel to the Florida Keys during hurricane season?
Absolutely. The Keys are very popular with vacationers in the summer and fall months. Many visitors from the United Kingdom and Europe visit during that period. Many great events are scheduled in the Keys during that time, as school is back in session and family vacationing is at a lull. Historically, the chances are excellent that your Keys vacation will not be interrupted by a hurricane.
Why, when I see a hurricane forecast tracking map, is so much area covered with that cone-like shaded area?
Hurricane forecast tracking map
Although hurricane forecasting has improved each year, it is still an inexact science, especially when the storm is more than three days away.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) produces two types of tracking maps. The first shows the area of strike possibility from zero to three days out and the second includes four to five days out.
Because hurricane forecasting is not an exact science, NHC forecast tracks of the center line have high error rates, especially forecasts issued more than three days ahead of a potential strike. The average track forecast errors in recent years are used to construct the areas of uncertainty for the first three days (solid white area) and for days 4 and 5 (a white stippled area). For the four- and five-day forecast, the error can be hundreds of miles.
The primary purpose of the four- and five-day track forecast map is that the hurricane center wants people to simply be aware of the storm, think about what actions to take in the event it continues to proceed in their direction, and be ready to follow the instructions provided by emergency management officials and your lodging management. The Florida Keys may be in the stippled area, but end up not being impacted by a storm.
What do I do if I’m in the Florida Keys and a hurricane threatens the region?
Example of an official Keys tourism advisory
Throughout the summer and fall, Keys emergency management officials keep in constant contact with the Florida Keys National Weather Service Forecast Office, based in Key West, whose meteorologists collaborate with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. And the Keys tourism council’s communications program lets visitors know of any need to evacuate, and long before travel conditions become hazardous. Local media reports and official advisories to lodging facilities provide updates and details about possible evacuation orders. If you hear of a storm threat, check with the registration office, visit the Florida Keys website at fla-keys.com or, while in the Keys, call the visitor assistance line at 1-800-771-KEYS. Should a storm threaten, for safety reasons, visitors are always asked to leave the Keys first. Although emergency officials will err on the side of caution, evacuation orders are only given if there is a significant storm threat.
The Tourist Development Council will also message storm-related information via its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
What if I don’t understand English very well?
The Keys tourism council has made available a round-the-clock, multilingual visitor assistance line for vacationers once they are in the Keys. Call 1-800-771-KEYS for any translation or information assistance.
When do I have to leave?
If a visitor evacuation order is necessary, officials strive to issue it early in the morning to provide ample time to make alternative travel arrangements. There is no need to panic, however, visitors are urged to follow emergency directives in a timely manner.
I have immediate plans to travel to the Keys, but an evacuation has been ordered. Why can’t I continue with those plans?
If an evacuation is ordered, there will be a steady stream of traffic leaving the Keys. If you travel to the Keys, you will be required to leave. Furthermore, most, if not all visitor facilities will not be open, as their owners make hurricane preparations. Buildings will be shuttered. Boats will be secured in protective moorings. State and county parks will close. So even though in the early stages of an evacuation, visitors may be able to reach the Keys, they will not enjoy the traditional benefits of a Keys vacation. It’s best to reschedule travel plans to visit after the potential danger has passed.
I’m in the Keys and there’s an order to evacuate, but I don’t have a car. How do I leave?
There are several options. Check with the front office or hotel concierge to see if there are any rental cars or flights available from Key West International Airport. A number of ground transportation shuttle services operate between Key West and Miami and Fort Lauderdale International Airports. Typically, Greyhound Bus Lines adds extra buses to accommodate vacationers leaving the Keys. The TDC surveys transportation companies to determine what is available, and passes that information via advisories to accommodations facilities and posts it on the TDC website, fla-keys.com.
The Tourist Development Council will also message storm-related information via its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Where can I go?
Local tourism officials realize that an unexpected vacation interruption is a hardship on visitors. The tourism council works cooperatively with other Florida destinations that typically set up special hotlines to provide hotel availability and rates. These numbers are published in advisories sent to properties and posted on the Keys website.
Visit Florida is partnering with Expedia to share availability and rates for evacuees. In the event of a storm, an online resource is to be available at Expedia.com/Florida.
What about lodging refunds?
Each property has its own refund policy. The Lodging Association of the Florida Keys & Key West urges their members to provide refunds of unused nights as soon as local officials issue a visitor evacuation order. The majority of Keys properties subscribe to this standard. Prior to reserving travel, visitors should have a clear understanding about their lodging facility’s refund policies in the event of a hurricane threat. Travel insurance plans are available from companies that can provide additional fiscal protection. Expedia.com has a “Hassle-Free Hurricane Promise” for travelers that book vacations on their website. If the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch or warning for any destination, Expedia will waive associated Expedia.com cancellation fees and advocate with their travel partners to waive applicable fees and help find new travel options.
Why, during an evacuation, are visitors asked to leave while residents can stay? And why must tourists leave so early?
Visitors are asked to leave the Keys during any category storm while residents are mandated to leave during a severe hurricane of Category 3 or higher. The early egress of visitors is for their own safety. Officials want visitors to have plenty of time to get out of harm’s way as well as to not impede the movement of Keys citizens in the event of a resident evacuation. Also, because of the Keys’ unique nature as a chain of islands, with one highway in and out, the region requires more time to evacuate than other coastal areas. And emergency officials must react earlier to avoid impacting possible evacuations of other South Florida communities.
In the event a hurricane does impact the Keys, there is high likelihood of power outages, temporarily impassable roads and airports that will be temporarily out of service. Most, if not all, hotels will be closed and visitor facilities will not be operational. At that point, the top priority for government and business owners is to restore facilities so the Keys can once again provide full-service vacation opportunities.
Historically, a hurricane only impacts the Keys once in four to five evacuations because the forecast inaccuracies of the predicted path of the storm are so great at the time of the evacuation order. As the state of hurricane science advances, forecast inaccuracies should decrease and hopefully diminish the number of evacuations.
When can we resume our vacation to the Keys?
This depends on several factors. If only a visitor evacuation has been ordered and the storm misses the Keys, visitors often can begin returning the day after the threat passes. If both visitor and resident evacuation orders have been issued, and the storm misses the Keys, it might take a few days for visitor facilities to reopen. If the storm impacts the Keys, visitors can begin returning after electricity, road access and other infrastructure, such as transportation and hospitals, are restored. Check the Florida Keys website at fla-keys.com for the latest information concerning the status of the Keys as well as the lodging facility where you wish to stay.
When I see a satellite picture of a hurricane, it looks like a very large area is being affected. But many times, a much smaller area is significantly affected. Why is this so?
National Hurricane Center satellite image of Hurricane Joaquin
Simple. The strongest portion of a tropical cyclone is concentrated around the eye or center of the storm. Typically, hurricane-force winds usually emanate anywhere from 40 to 50 miles from the center, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Where can I monitor hurricanes and receive more information?
The National Hurricane Center — operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a United States government agency, monitors hurricanes both in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Its extensive website can be found at www.nhc.noaa.gov. Information is also provided on Facebook and Twitter (@nhc_atlantic).
Other resources to keep up with the latest changes include:
- NOAA Key West National Weather Service Office
- NWSKeyWest on Facebook
- @NWSKeyWest on Twitter
- Monroe County Emergency Management Office: Receive alerts about emergencies and other important community news by signing up for the Emergency Alert Program, called Alert!Monroe. This system provides critical information quickly in a variety of situations, such as severe weather, emergency road closures, boil water notices, water service interruption, missing persons and evacuations of neighborhoods. Click here to sign up.
- Florida Emergency Information Line at 800-342-3557; Text “FLPrepares” to 888777 to receive AlertFlorida notifications