Should divers planning on diving Key Largo worry about Hurricanes?

July 10, 2013

Prepare for a bit of ranting…I’ve had it with the “frenzy” created by today’s media concerning the weather, (and alot of other things actually but for now let’s stick to the weather).


Living and diving in Key Largo, we’re used to storms.    The Florida Keys are located just above what is considered the “Tropical Zone” of the Earth, which is the hottest area of the planet located around the equator.  No part of America is in the Tropical Zone…but the Florida Keys is the closest to this…only 90 miles away. So yes, we in the subtropics get rained on more…and get more tropical storms and Hurricanes than other areas.  

But just how many is “more” when talking Hurricanes?

Hurricanes in FloridaThe unique Florida Keys...and Key Largo

Florida is part of the “Hurricane Belt”….according to the National Weather Service,  “the Caribbean Hurricane Belt is an
area in the Atlantic, including the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico that has a high level tendency to get hit by a hurricane.”

So Florida gets lots of hurricanes…right?    Well, statistically here is how this has worked out for the State of Florida;

Total Hurricanes:    According to NOAA  overall, 114 Hurricanes altogether have crossed to Florida Coastline since 1851. That’s an average of 3.5 Hurricanes to hit Florida every 5 years.

Major Hurricanes:  According to NOAA,  “About three major hurricanes cross the U.S. coast every five years, and forty percent of all U.S. hurricanes hit Florida”.  So this means that approximately 1.2 major Hurricanes every 5 years on average have crossed Florida Coastline since NOAA has been keeping records since 1851.

Note:  These stats are for the entire state of Florida..NOT the Florida Keys.  How many have affected the Keys?  It’s hard to find any hard stats…I’ve been trying and can’t find any reliable data.

Hurricanes in the Florida Keys… evacuations tell the story?

This would be a good indicator of how many Hurricanes affect us here in the Keys I think?  I could only get hard stats from 1995 until now…but this includes the period of  “high activity” we are living in now according to NOAA based on recorded history since 1851.

So these numbers should be REAL high..right?

Truth #1 – In the last 18 years, Monroe County has ordered a total of 15 Mandatory Evacuations according to Monroe County Emergency Management.

Truth #2 – Of these 15 evacs, 7 were in 2 years, 2004 & 2005, the worst 2 years on record for Hurricanes in the united States.

Truth #3 – Of these 15 “evacuation events” in the last 18 years…Key West has seen 6 Hurricanes produce Hurricane force winds on their island.

*Truth #4 –  Only 3 of these evacuation events produced Hurricane force winds in Key Largo, and  7 total affected our weather in a negative fashion.

That’s 7 times in 18 years the weather went bad in Key Largo as a result of a passing Hurricane. And during that time, Key Largo has not been hit directly even once.  

How can that be you ask?   Well one reason is that Hurricanes, while looking very big on the radar when CNN, FOX, and all the rest show it over and over and over to us, actually have Hurricane force winds generally only near the center, or eye, of the storm.  Andrew, the biggest Hurricane to hit South Florida in the modern era, had Hurricane force winds extending out only about 60 miles from it’s center when it hit South Miami.

*Note, “Truth #4”, unlike the other truths above…are based only on our diving records here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center since we could not find any hard data relating specifically to this .  If anyone can find anything different, we’d love to hear it.  But understand this is based on our Dive Trip logs, which stretch back to 1994 as luck would have it, and we can tell you if/when we ran dive trips to the reef on any given day of any of these years.  So while I can’t give you NOAA stats on this particular “truth”, it is a “truth on the ground” and we can back it up with our dive trip logs. And I promise we don’t run diving trips in Hurricane force winds, or anything close to it!

So should divers planning a visit to Key Largo be worried about Hurricanes?

So in the last 18 years, a time when according to the National Hurricane Center has been the most active since keeping records, Key Largo has seen hurricane force winds from a passing Hurricane only 3 times, and has not been directly hit even once.

I’ll let everyone who reads this make their own conclusions about Hurricanes in general, and I certainly don’t want to imply that they aren’t dangerous, they certainly can be WHEN they hit an area.  Heck, Key Largo could be hit directly in the next week or so.  But as far as divers making plans to go on their dive vacation in Key Largo, I’m just not sure that Hurricanes should play into their plan-making.

Statistically speaking, if you’re coming here for a few days or a week, it’s a pretty darn good bet you won’t be seeing any part of a Hurricane.   So come on down, let’s go dive Key Largo!