Atlantic Hurricanes

The North Atlantic hurricane season begins in June and lasts through November. Between 1851 and 2014, the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that only 12 hurricanes developed between the months of December and May, and none of them made landfall. On average, nearly two hurricanes make landfall in the U.S. each year. The most likely month of occurrence is September followed by August and October.

Since 1851, North Carolina has been hit by 50 hurricanes. Twelve of these were classified as “major hurricanes,” meaning that they were a category 3 hurricane or higher. Among the states, North Carolina has the fourth highest number of major hurricane hits. Florida (37), Louisiana (20), and Texas (19) have experienced the largest number of hits from major hurricanes in the 163 years recorded by NOAA.

Direct Hits from Major Hurricanes by State 1851_2014

Three North Carolina counties – Carteret, Dare, and Hyde – are among the top 5 counties most frequently hit by hurricanes between 1960 and 2008. All of the top counties are within three states: Louisiana (5), Florida (3), and North Carolina (3).

Coastline Counties Most Frequently Hit by Hurricanes

Among these counties, Dare County has had the most significant increase in local housing units. Between 1960 and 2008, the number of housing units in Dare County increased by 466%. The only other county with a similar increase was Palm Beach County in Florida (455% increase in housing units over this same time period).

As Tim Doggett or AIR Worldwide notes, “People don’t just live near the sea, they also shop, work, and seek entertainment there.” The increases in Dare County’s housing stock reflect the emergence of the Outer Banks as a major vacation destination. In 2012, the estimated value of insured property on North Carolina’s coast was $163.5 billion, 9% of the state’s total insured value of property.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides extensive resources to assist emergency planners and community leaders in assessing the potential impacts of natural disasters. OnTheMap for Emergency Management provides reports on the workforce and population for current natural hazard and emergency related events.

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
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