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Most Hurricane-Prone and Least Hurricane-Prone Areas in Florida

By Jarrod Heil

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Florida is known as the Sunshine State, but that sunshine comes with a hefty price tag in the form of deadly and destructive hurricanes.

Since direct hurricane hits were first recorded in 1851, Florida has been hit by almost twice as many as the second-most prone state. Furthermore, hurricanes that hit Florida account for more than 40 percent of all hurricanes that hit the United States.

The Sunshine State has sustained an astounding 120 hurricane hits and a record-breaking 38 major hurricane hits from the induction of the Saffir/Simpson category in 1851 through the 2017 hurricane season.

That’s 56 more hurricanes and 18 more major hurricanes than Texas, which has sustained the second-most in history in each category.

Hurricanes that hit Florida are commonplace due to the direct path from the easterly winds off the coast of Africa, which are usually the main contributor in fueling hurricanes from the start. The state is also surrounded by warm waters on each side of the coastline, which fuels their strength prior to landfall.

Most Hurricane-Prone Areas in Florida

Northwest: 66 total hurricanes (14 major hurricanes)

The Florida Panhandle is the most hurricane-prone area in Florida due to the warm, shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which hurricanes tend to favor dearly.

These warm, shallow waters help hurricanes strengthen before making landfall, which has led to some pretty bad storms in recorded history.

The most recent storm to hit the Florida Panhandle was Hurricane Michael in 2018. It made landfall as just the second Category 5 hurricane in Florida history and devastated the area to the tune of an estimated $25.1 billion and caused an estimated 59 deaths.

The northwest Florida Panhandle has also seen 13 Category 3 hurricanes through the 2017 season.

Southwest: 49 total hurricanes (17 major hurricanes)

The southwest part of Florida is widely known for its white-sand beaches and warm, calm waters in the Gulf of Mexico. But those waters aren’t always lull of waves and the air isn’t always warm and beaming with sunshine.

The southwest part of Florida has sustained the second-most direct hits and major hurricanes since the Saffir/Simpson category was introduced in 1851. The most recent storm to affect southwest Florida was Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Through the 2017 hurricane season, southwest Florida has seen one Category 5, six Category 4 and nine Category 3 hurricanes make landfall.

Southeast: 49 total hurricanes (16 major hurricanes)

Southeast Florida seems to be in the news most recently when it comes to hurricanes, but it’s actually not even the most-prone area in Florida to hurricanes. Although it’s close to the top of the list, it’s tied with southwest Florida as the second-most prone part of the Sunshine State for 49 total hurricanes through the 2017 season.

However, southeast Florida has been the target of some of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history. It has been hit by two Category 5 and seven Category 4 hurricanes, which is more than any other area or entire state in recorded history.

It took the brunt force of Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which are the two most destructive hurricanes to hit the state of Florida.

Least Hurricane-Prone Areas in Florida

Northeast: 26 total hurricanes (1 major hurricane)

Northeast Florida, which includes much of the Space Coast and up to Jacksonville, is the least hurricane-prone area in Florida when speaking of coastlines. In fact, that stretch of coastline up to the northern tip of South Carolina is a fairly inactive spot for hurricane activity.

One of the main reasons for the lack of activity in that area is because many hurricanes that pass through the Caribbean typically make landfall in the Caribbean and then work their way into southeast Florida or the Gulf of Mexico.

If a hurricane doesn’t hit the Caribbean Islands directly, it tends to swing north before making landfall, which is why North Carolina is the third-most prone state to hurricanes in the U.S.

Inland Florida (Closer to North Florida)

It makes complete sense that people who want to live in Florida, but don’t want to be affected by the many hurricanes the state faces, should make their home toward the central part of North Florida. Those areas are far enough from any coastline that they typically don’t receive direct hits.

They still have they the aftermath of hurricanes — strong winds and sweeping tornadoes — but they’ll likely be able to steer clear of those 120-plus-mile-per-hour winds that torment other parts of the Sunshine State.

When Are Hurricanes Most Common in Florida?

While the Atlantic hurricane season spans from June 1 to November 30, Florida has seen most of its hurricane activity during a span from late August to early October. In the record books, September is the most active month in Florida history.

History of Hurricanes in Florida by Year

The following hurricanes all made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 or higher:

  1. Michael: Category 5 at landfall on October 10, 2018
  2. Irma: Category 4 at landfall on September 10, 2017
  3. Dennis: Category 3 at landfall on July 10, 2005
  4. Wilma: Category 3 at landfall on October 24, 2005
  5. Charley: Category 4 at landfall on August 13, 2004
  6. Ivan: Category 3 at landfall on September 16, 2004
  7. Jeanne: Category 3 at landfall on September 26, 2004
  8. Opal: Category 3 at landfall on October 4, 1995
  9. Andrew: Category 5 at landfall on August 24, 1992
  10. Elena: Category 3 at landfall on September 2, 1985
  11. Eloise: Category 3 at landfall on September 23, 1975
  12. Betsy: Category 3 at landfall on September 8, 1965
  13. Donna: Category 4 at landfall on September 10, 1960
  14. Easy: Category 3 at landfall on September 5, 1950
  15. King: Category 4 at landfall on October 18, 1950
  16. Unnamed: Category 4 at landfall on August 26, 1949
  17. Unnamed: Category 4 at landfall on September 21–22, 1948
  18. Unnamed: Category 4 at landfall on September 17, 1947
  19. Unnamed: Category 4 at landfall on September 15, 1945
  20. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on October 18, 1944
  21. Labor Day: Category 5 at landfall on September 3, 1935
  22. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on September 4, 1933
  23. Okeechobee: Category 4 at landfall on September 17, 1928
  24. Great Miami: Category 4 at landfall on September 18–20, 1926
  25. Unnamed: Category 4 at landfall on September 10, 1919
  26. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on September 29, 1917
  27. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on October 11, 1909
  28. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on October 18, 1906
  29. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on September 29, 1896
  30. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on October 9, 1894
  31. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on August 16, 1888
  32. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on September 10, 1882
  33. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on October 3, 1877
  34. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on October 7, 1873
  35. Unnamed: Category 3 at landfall on August 17, 1871
  36. Great Middle Florida: Category 3 at landfall on August 23, 1851

 

Florida has been hit by the most hurricanes of any other state in the entire country, and it will likely keep getting hit by hurricanes.

The danger is real and the most hurricane-prone areas in Florida are also some of the most hurricane-prone areas in the United States.