Hurricanes and extreme weather

Posted Date: 18 September 2017
Extreme weather and hurricanes

The terrible spate of hurricanes which have impacted the Caribbean and lower east coast of the USA has caused widespread damage to both people and their properties.

We want to extend our deepest sympathies to anyone who has been affected by these disasters.

We’d also like to share some information to help any travellers with questions about how extreme weather can affect your holiday plans and how your insurance can cover you.

What is a hurricane? A brief rundown

Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are all names for the same weather event, but are named according to their location.

According to National Geographic, a hurricane is a tropical storm that occurs over warm areas over the ocean. When the tropical storm reaches wind speeds of over 74mph, it becomes a hurricane. Hurricanes usually stay over the ocean, but if they move inland they often leave a wake of destruction.

Hurricanes are classified into five categories, with 1 being the least severe up to 95mph (153kph) winds, and 5 being the maximum with over 156mph (251kph) wind speed.

Hurricane Irma, which recently hit the Caribbean, is a category 5 and is currently the strongest hurricane on record to ever hit the Atlantic Basin. Its wind speed has been recorded at 185mph (297kph) and thousands of people have been evacuated, along with over 10,000 flights cancelled.

When is hurricane season?

If you’re planning to travel to a tropical area in the Pacific Ocean during their summer or autumn, chances of encountering a hurricane are much higher. The West Atlantic Ocean sees more hurricanes than anywhere else in the world, especially the Caribbean, Florida, Cuba, the Bahamas and Netherland Antilles. 

In the Northern Hemisphere, cyclone season is between June and November, with September being the most dangerous month. In the Southern Hemisphere, November to April is peak cyclone season.

Where can you check travel advisories before your trip?

Before any trip, it’s really important to do your research. A good place to start is SafeTravel for any travel advisories or recommendations around certain areas. If there’s a travel advisory risk warning, such as high or extreme for the area you’re planning to visit, you should consider changing your plans.

There’s cover under your policy if you have to cancel or alter your pre-paid travel plans, as long as your travel insurance was purchased before the natural disaster commenced.

You can also register your details with SafeTravel/Smartraveller, so that in the event of an unexpected disaster, they will make contact with you to ensure your safety or provide necessary information.

It also pays to check the weather forecast, including the Emergency Events Database. For other tips on checking the weather, see our weather article here.

Cancellations and delays – what are you covered for?

It’s a good idea to buy travel insurance as soon as you pay for any flights or accommodation, so that we can cover you if you have to cancel your trip due to unexpected events like extreme weather.

We can also cover you if you’re delayed overseas due to things like flight cancellations, so you don’t end up out of pocket, as well as delayed.

With over 10,000 flights grounded because of Hurricane Irma, it’s an important thing to keep in mind!

Extra accommodation and living costs are all part of delays, and our TravelCare policy includes comprehensive delay cover to cover you for the additional costs incurred while waiting to return home.

However, it’s important to remember that your policy only covers you for delays caused by unexpected weather events. If there has been a volcanic eruption that grounded planes before you purchased your insurance, you may not be covered for delays if it flares up again during your journey. It’s also important to know that if you buy your insurance after a disaster has been declared, we can’t cover you because it’s no longer unexpected.

What do you do if you’re on holiday and a hurricane occurs?

First and foremost, your safety is the top priority! Here are our top tips to keep yourself and your loved ones safe:

  1. Listen to authorities. Your accommodation provider will have an emergency plan for extreme weather events, so follow their instructions. If you encounter emergency services, such as fire crews, police or an ambulance, stay calm and follow their instructions.
  2. If it is safe to do so, stay inside and keep away from doors and windows whenever possible.
  3. Get in touch with your airline about flight cancellations to find out what other options are available. If you can’t make a flight due to bad weather, they may be able to negotiate a later flight for a fee, advise whether you should find accommodation until the following day, or even let you know that the plane has been grounded.
  4. Once you’ve spoken to your airline, call us to discuss what’s covered under your policy and how we can help. Our Emergency Assistance Team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  5. If a state of emergency is declared, check in with the New Zealand Embassy in your area if you can.

Above all, we want you to be safe. If you’re planning a trip to the east coast of the USA and you’re unsure of anything, get in touch with us about how we can help.

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