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Hurricanes in Yucatán

01 may 2024
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10 min. de lectura
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If you are new to Yucatán or just visiting, it is worth taking a moment to learn about hurricane season. From June 1 to November 30 we keep our eyes on the weather and its forecasts. Hurricanes, unlike earthquakes and tsunamis, take days to form, so you have time to prepare.
 
 

Hurricane season in Yucatán

The hurricane season in Yucatán is actually the Gulf's tropical cyclone season; this means it's important to keep an eye on not just hurricanes, but also tropical depressions and storms.

 

Tropical depressions and storms have winds between 40 and 117 km/h (or 24 and 72 mph). Once they reach 118 km/h (73 mph), these weather phenomena are considered hurricanes. There are five levels of hurricanes; according to the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, these range from Category 1 (with wind speeds between 118 and 153 km/h, or 75 and 95 mph) to Category 5 (winds exceeding 250 km/h or 155 mph). 

 

For 2024, the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University is predicting an 'extremely active' hurricane season for the Atlantic. This is due to the shift from El Niño to La Niña this year. They expect 23 named storms (much higher than the average of 14 between 1991 and 2020), with 11 of those potentially becoming hurricanes.

 

 

What to expect during hurricane season in Yucatán

In Yucatán, most houses are made of metal and concrete, making them very safe against the strong winds during the tropical cyclone season. However, it’s true that at these wind speeds, extreme damage can occur, and if the hurricane brings rain, it can cause severe damage as well.

 

On the coast, the sea can gain unexpected strength and destroy whatever is in its path; depending on the severity of the threat, authorities might urge people in those areas to evacuate. If this happens, don’t ignore their recommendations; the sea can completely destroy even the most solid concrete structures.

 

But don’t be afraid: hurricanes are seen coming days in advance, and it’s unlikely they will catch us by surprise. Here are some recommendations.

 

 

Early warning system for tropical cyclones in Yucatán

In Yucatán, as in all of México, we have a hurricane alert system based on five colors:
 
🔵 Blue alert: Minimal danger
🟢 Green alert: Low danger
🟡 Yellow alert: Moderate danger
🟠 Orange alert: High danger
🔴 Red alert: Maximum alert

 

What does the blue hurricane alert mean in México?

🔵 As the hurricane approaches: Advisory
🔵 As the hurricane moves away: Advisory
 
During the approach phase, the blue alert means a cyclone (whether a tropical depression or hurricane) has been detected in the area; this does not necessarily mean the hurricane will impact the alert zone. The blue alert is issued when there is a possibility that, within 72 hours, the area may experience winds exceeding 63 km/h (39 mph). While the blue alert is active, bulletins are issued at least every 24 hours.
 

What does the green hurricane alert mean in México?

🟢 As the hurricane approaches: Prevention
🟢 As the hurricane moves away: Surveillance
 
During the approach phase, the green alert means there is a tropical cyclone whose winds could affect the area within the next 24 to 72 hours. As with the blue alert, it does not necessarily mean there will be impacts, as hurricane paths are difficult to predict with precision. While the green alert is active, bulletins are issued at least every 12 hours.
 

What does the yellow hurricane alert mean in México?

🟡 As the hurricane approaches: Preparation
🟡 As the hurricane moves away: Monitoring
 
During the approach phase, the yellow alert means the area could experience winds exceeding 63 km/h within 60 to 6 hours. The impact is not imminent but likely; residents in risk areas (e.g., coastal areas or non-concrete buildings) are advised to prepare for possible evacuation. While the yellow alert is active, bulletins are issued at least every 6 hours.
 

What does the orange hurricane alert mean in México?

🟠 As the hurricane approaches: Alarm
🟠 As the hurricane moves away: Alarm
 
During the approach phase, the orange alert means the impact of winds exceeding 63 km/h is imminent within 36 to 6 hours. At this point, the danger is high; ports will be closed to navigation, and authorities will issue evacuation orders where necessary. While the orange alert is active, bulletins are issued at least every 3 hours.
 

What does the red hurricane alert mean in México?

🔴 As the hurricane approaches: Impact
🔴 As the hurricane moves away: Impact
 
The red alert is issued during the impact of a tropical cyclone or when it is expected within less than 18 hours. At this point, the danger is maximum; residents are advised to take complete shelter in safe places (away from windows and trees susceptible to falling) and not to go out for any reason, even if it seems that the winds have calmed. While the red alert is active, bulletins are issued at least every 3 hours.
 
 

How to prepare for a hurricane in Yucatán

If you visit Yucatán during hurricane season (between June and November), the most important thing is to stay updated with alerts and rely only on verified sources. If a hurricane is approaching the Península, you’ll likely see satellite photos on the front pages of local newspapers. Local authorities also publish warnings (in Spanish, Maya, and English) on radio stations and other media. Online, you can monitor alerts from the United States National Hurricane Center

 

In general, the most important precautions you should take for a hurricane in Yucatán are:

 
  • Stay informed of instructions from authorities. 
  • If you're staying in a hotel, check with the management about their protection and shelter protocols. 
  • If you're in charge of your house or apartment, inspect the property and surroundings for objects that could be blown away by the wind (water tank lids are especially susceptible), and secure them as much as possible. 
  • Prepare provisions (water and non-perishable food), candles, batteries, and flashlights for at least a couple of days. It is also advisable to have a battery-operated radio to stay updated on the storm's progress. In case of impact, a well-stocked cooler with ice can be a lifesaver, as can handheld fans, in case of power outages.
  • If you take any medication, make sure you are well stocked. 
  • During the storm, stay away from all windows.  
  • In previous instances, when impact has been imminent, authorities have decreed the suspension of alcohol sales, as most injuries and fatalities during these events are caused by reckless behavior. 
 
 

How are hurricanes named?

Atlantic hurricanes are named and updated through a strict procedure regulated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. Six alphabetical lists alternate male and female names. These lists rotate in six-year cycles, so the names from 2023 will be used again in 2029. Exceptions are made only when a hurricane is so destructive or deadly that reusing the name would be insensitive.
 
The names designated for use in Atlantic storms in 2024 are: 
 
  1. Alberto
  2. Beryl
  3. Chris
  4. Debby
  5. Ernesto
  6. Francine
  7. Gordon
  8. Helene
  9. Isaac
  10. Joyce
  11. Kirk
  12. Leslie
  13. Milton
  14. Nadine
  15. Oscar
  16. Patty
  17. Rafael
  18. Sara
  19. Tony
  20. Valerie
  21. William

 

First published in Yucatán Today print and digital magazine no. 270, in June 2011. Last updated in May 2024.

Alicia Navarrete Alonso

Author: Alicia Navarrete Alonso

Communicologist born circumstantially in México City, but who says “uay” since 1985. Life has allowed me to see the world, which in turn has allowed me to discover how much I love the place where I live

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