Tropical storms, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones range in scale and impact from relatively unremarkable to catastrophic. While the season and areas in which these weather event occur are generally predictable, the path of the storm is not – they can change direction rapidly and with limited warning.

If you find yourself in an area that is subject to serious storm warnings, please research how best to stay safe. We have put together the following information as a starting point.

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Know how to contact your Embassy

Before the storm hits, find the contact details for your local Embassy. Store the information in several places and write it down somewhere you will be able to find it if you should need to. Make sure your emergency contact also has the relevant information (please note: sometimes the international and domestic phone numbers can be different) and agree the circumstance under which they will contact the Embassy – ie, if they don’t hear from you in  24/48  hours.

Many local Embassies and High Commissions will have a website and/or social media presence. Check this out in advance and bookmark the page or follow them on social media.


Flying in or out? Contact your airline

If you are flying in to or out of an area that is the subject of a severe storm alert, contact your airline for further advice. Contact them before you set out and leave enough time to make your flight, allowing for heavy traffic and delays.

Prepare to be patient and understanding – staff will likely be under a lot of pressure and possibly won’t have access to different or better information than you.


Plan for your group

If you are travelling in a group, make an emergency contact plan. Make sure you have the following information, preferably in both offline and secure online locations accounts –

  • Full name
  • Contact details – phone number, email address, accommodation contact details
  • Nationality and languages spoken
  • Individual’s emergency contact – name, contact info, relationship to individual
  • Travel itinerary – information on flights, trains, buses, car service, etc, including contact information and timings where possible
  • Any important health information – medical conditions, allergies, medication, etc
  • Travel insurance information – policy number, contact details
  • Travel support company information – policy number, contact details

If your email is secure and you know your password, email the information to yourself. If something happens, you will be able to access this or to pass the contact information on to the relevant consular team, who will be able to access it.

Work out what you will do

Spend a few minutes working out what the group will do in different scenarios. Do you have necessary kit to wait out the storm? (See below for more.) Is someone trained in first aid? Do you speak the local language? If you are separated, how will  you find each other? Where will you meet up?

Preparing in a calm and organised fashion will give you more confidence and security should anything bad happen.


Hurricane Season Travel Tips

From the Canadian Government

The hurricane season extends from May 15 to November 30. Tropical depressions and storms that may develop into hurricanes occur in the North Atlantic and northeast Pacific oceans. Catastrophic storms can cause extreme damage to infrastructure, cutting off communications and access to transportation, emergency assistance, medical care, and food and water.

The ability of consular officials to assist Canadian citizens may be limited during catastrophic storms. Mexico, Central America, Caribbean islands and the east and Gulf coasts of the United States are among the most threatened areas. If you plan to travel during hurricane season, we encourage you to: 

  • Consult our Country Travel Advice and Advisories at least twice: while planning your trip and just before you go, to verify that it is safe to travel to your destination.
  • Purchase travel insurance and ensure your insurance allows for trip cancellation or interruption in the event of a hurricane. Learn more at travel.gc.ca/insurance.
  • Ensure that detailed information is left with family or friends in Canada, including the name of the tour operator, flight details, hotel name, location and telephone number, and itinerary.
  • Ensure that emergency contact information is provided on page four of your passport and leave copies of all travel documents and insurance details with someone in Canada.
  • Sign up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad service, so that we can contact and assist you in case of an emergency abroad or at home.
  • Before you go, find the location and contact information for the Canadian embassy or consulate closest to your destination.
  • Visit the Canadian Hurricane Centre website for recommendations on hurricane preparedness.
  • Obtain up-to-date weather forecasts for the region from the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
  • Monitor local news broadcasts and weather reports carefully and follow the advice of local authorities and tour operators when you are abroad.
  • Carry contact details for our Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa, which operates 24/7 and accepts collect calls (where available) from Canadians requiring emergency assistance abroad at tel.: +1 613 996 8885 (email: sos@international.gc.ca).

Please click here to read more.


What to do if a tropical cyclone is coming

From the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

It’s difficult to accurately predict where, when and at what strength a tropical cyclone will strike, as they often veer off-course, change their tracking speed and intensify or weaken quite suddenly. It is advisable to follow local advice, which in some cases may be to leave the immediate area if a storm is heading your way.

If you are in a cyclone region during the tropical cyclone season:

  • regularly check or subscribe to our country travel advice
  • monitor local radio, TV and press
  • keep in touch with your travel/tour operator
  • read our guidance about how to deal with a crisis overseas
  • follow local advice – and leave the area if advised
  • remember that airports and hotels may shut down if a hurricane approaches

Tropical cyclones can seriously damage and disrupt a country’s infrastructure. It may take time for airports to re-open, and there may be serious shortages of accommodation, food, water and health facilities. Our ability to help British nationals may be limited (perhaps severely) in these circumstances. We do not have Embassies in every location likely to be affected by hurricanes, for example some islands in the Caribbean, and this is likely to also have an impact on the level of assistance we can provide in certain places.

Please click here to read more.


Stay informed, stay indoors, update your loved ones

From the Government of New Zealand’s Safe Travel website

We advise New Zealanders in these countries to stay informed of developments by monitoring local news and weather reports. We also recommend that you follow the advice of the local authorities at all times, including any evacuation orders. Visitors and tourists staying in travel accommodation should follow the guidance of hotel/resort management. It is generally considered sensible practice not to venture outdoors during a hurricane and remain well away from the sea and rivers. You should make contact with your travel provider or airline for information on any transport disruptions.

Please also ensure you keep your family and friends in New Zealand informed of your safety and well-being, including after the hurricane has passed.

Please click here to read more.


Storm survival kit

If you have time and are in a position to do so, assemble the following equipment and supplies.

Image via LiveScience.


Tropical storm info

From the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The difference between a hurricane, typhoon, or tropical cyclone

There is no difference. Hurricanes and typhoons are regionally specific names for a severe tropical cyclone.

Wind speed is used to categorise a tropical cyclone: * less than 34 knots (39mph) – tropical depression * more than 34 knots – tropical storm and given a name * more than 64 knots (74mph) – designated either a hurricane, typhoon, severe tropical cyclone, severe cyclonic storm or tropical cyclone depending where it is in the world * the strength of hurricanes is categorised on a scale of 1 to 5 with category 1 being over 64 knots

The effects of a tropical cyclone

Tropical cyclones can cause damage in a number of ways

  • high winds: buildings can be damaged or destroyed; trees, power and telephone lines toppled; debris turns into projectiles
  • storm surge: a hurricane can provoke a temporary rise in sea level of several metres which can flood coastal areas and damage buildings on the shoreline
  • very heavy rainfall: this can cause localised or widespread flooding and mudslides

Please click here to read more.

Anatomy of a Hurricane

From Visually.

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