Hurricanes

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Tropical systems have shaped and reshaped the geography, flora, and fauna of the barrier islands and shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico for centuries. The most intense of these systems are known as hurricanes, which is a tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 74 mph or more. These storms have the ability to change barrier islands in dramatic and permanent ways.

Due to the location of Gulf Islands National Seashore, the National Park Service (NPS) is constantly working to prepare and improve the resiliency of national seashore facilities and resources. However, despite these efforts, tropical systems will continue to have substantial impacts on national seashore operations. The NPS takes certain steps when these systems threaten the area in order to ensure the safety of our visitors and employees.

Tropical systems are naturally occurring, dynamic, changing constantly through their development and disintegration. That variability requires the NPS to err on the side of caution and always be prepared for the most intense conditions forecasted. Gulf Islands National Seashore’s barrier islands are the first line of defense for developed mainland areas against storm surge and high energy winds associated with tropical systems. These islands are normally the first, and sometime the most, impacted areas when tropical systems make landfall.

The national seashore prepares for these anticipated impacts and will normally be the first sites in the local area to close and the last areas to reopen. In some of these locations, roadways and facilities are just a few yards from the Gulf of Mexico. Although every storm is different in its strength, duration, speed, track, and landfall, Gulf Islands National Seashore follows a hurricane plan which prescribes the orderly closure and evacuation of national seashore areas and islands.

 

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Gulf Islands Tropical Cyclone Plan*:

The island areas of Gulf Islands National Seashore are regularly closed first. These closures can occur when the National Weather Service forecasts tropical conditions to impact the national seashore within the next 24-36 hours. In this situation, Fort Pickens, Perdido Key, Opal Beach, Okaloosa areas in Florida, and Cat, West Ship, East Ship, Horn, West Petit Bois, Petit Bois Islands in Mississippi will be closed. When the Fort Pickens Area is closed, the Fort Pickens Campground is closed and campers are required to evacuate within a time frame announced by the park service preceding dangerous conditions.

In the event of named tropical systems (tropical storms and hurricanes), all areas of the national seashore are likely to close ahead of the storm. As outlined in the park’s hurricane plan, the NPS will follow the following schedule; however, circumstances may lead to a modified schedule.

  • Major hurricanes (Category 3-5)
    The national seashore will close 36-72 hours before forecasted landfall.

  • Hurricanes (Category 1-2)
    The national seashore will close 24-60 hours before forecasted landfall.

  • Tropical Storms
    The national seashore will close 12-24 hours before forecasted landfall.

*Evacuations and closures will begin prior to these closure targets.

Where to Get Information:

The National Park Service works hard to inform our visitors and the local community about emergency closures and evacuations. The park has several tools to inform the public including traditional and digital media. The park’s severe weather hotline is 850-934-2656.

 
 

Last updated: October 16, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Phone:

(850) 934-2600

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