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A Guide to OBX Hurricane Season

Hurricanes are an inevitable, part of living and staying on the Outer Banks. Hurricanes are large, rotating storms with high-speed winds that form over warm waters, usually in tropical areas. Hurricanes have sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour and an area of low pressure in the center of the storm called the eye.

These storms are often capable of causing extreme damage to the areas that they go over and the Outer Banks is no stranger to the damaging effects of hurricanes. During the 1990s, Hurricane Fran, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Bonnie hit the state of North Carolina resulting in mass evacuations, extreme damage, and multiple fatalities. In the 200s, Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Isabel, Hurricane Florence, and Hurricane Dorian directly impacted the Outer Banks causing large storm surges and extreme flooding, in addition to dangerous winds and property damage. None of these hurricanes were above Category 3 (more on that below), so it is important to remember that even a Category 1 storm or a Tropical Storm can still cause severe damage and it is important to be prepared.

Still, it's important not to let the threat of a hurricane stop you from enjoying the awesome experience of an Outer Banks vacation; you just have to be prepared and have a plan! We’ve got you covered with our guide to OBX hurricane season.

Below is an OBX Hurricane Checklist with information about how to be prepared in the event of a hurricane heading towards the Outer Banks as well as Evacuation Tips and a FAQ section to help you be prepared and keep you and your family safe in the event of a storm.

When is Hurricane Season on the Outer Banks?

Hurricane season in the OBX typically lasts from June 1st to November 30th. However, tropical cyclone activity sometimes occurs before and after these dates, respectively. 

The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is September 10, with most activity occurring between mid-August and mid-October.This is the time of the year when the Atlantic Ocean is most conducive to the formation and development of hurricanes and tropical storms. It's important to stay informed about weather conditions and follow any warnings or guidance from local authorities. Consult the National Hurricane Center for more information.  

If you are forced to evacuate the Outer Banks, consult our checklist below.

OBX Hurricane Checklist

When hurricanes threaten the Outer Banks, it is imperative that you adhere to the instructions of Seaside Vacations and local authorities. If/when time permits, each vacation rental guest will be notified as to what they should do.

In the event of an Outer Banks hurricane, Seaside Vacations advises all guests of the following:

  1. When a hurricane watch is issued, you should begin preparations for possible evacuation. Seaside Vacations will monitor the storm along with local authorities and the National Hurricane Center. When the probability of a hit to the Outer Banks becomes likely, Dare County will issue a MANDATORY EVACUATION. Evacuation is required whenever a mandatory evacuation is issued by Dare County officials. You should pack all belongings, including food, and evacuate immediately. Neither Seaside Vacations nor the vacation rental homeowner will be responsible for any items you may leave behind.
  2. Plan your evacuation route. The NC Department of Transportation's evacuation maps is a great resource. View our evacuation tips below for more information on evacuating.
  3. Upon leaving the Outer Banks, you may either stay inland at a hotel/motel or return home. Keep in mind that the first people to evacuate will get the closest hotel/motel rooms and avoid traffic congestion. The longer you wait, the further you'll have to travel to find accommodations. After the storm passes, you may call our office or local authorities to see if you can return. If so, we are glad to have you come back and enjoy the rest of your vacation. View our evacuation tips below for more information about returning to the Outer Banks after a hurricane has passed.
  4. There will be NO REFUNDS OR CREDITS FOR HURRICANE EVACUATIONS.  Whether you own property, run a business, or rent a vacation home on the Outer Banks, the threat of a hurricane is always present during certain months of the year, and we all assume this risk. Therefore, we suggest you consider Travel Insurance to secure your vacation investment and eliminate your financial risk. There will be no refunds of any kind for hurricane evacuations. According to the North Carolina Vacation Rental Act, in the event of a mandatory evacuation, “The tenant shall not be entitled to a refund if: i.e. prior to the Tenant taking possession of the property, the Tenant refused insurance offered by the landlord or real estate broker that would have compensated him or her for losses or damages resulting in loss of use of the property due to a mandatory evacuation order; or i.e. the Tenant purchased insurance offered by the landlord or real estate broker.” This means that no refunds will be given either by Seaside Vacations or the homeowner if you either buy or refuse to buy insurance. Please consider Travel Insurance, which will reimburse you for lost vacation time, to avoid this risk. Under NC law, Seaside Vacations will not issue refunds in the event there is an evacuation due to a tropical system/hurricane.  Please consider purchasing Travel Insurance.

For the most up-to-date storm happenings, we suggest you follow our status updates on our Facebook Page.

Outer Banks Hurricane Evacuation Tips

Voluntary vs. Mandatory Evacuations

  • When a Voluntary Evacuation is issued, the decision of whether or not to leave is entirely up to you.It is highly suggested by government officials that residents and visitors leave the area for their own safety, but there are no consequences should you decide to stay.
  • When a Mandatory Evacuation is issued, this means that you should your home and move somewhere safe as soon as possible due to imminent danger from the coming storm. While residents are not likely to be arrested for staying, residents are expected to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours after the storm and there will not be utility or emergency services available while the mandatory evacuation remains in place.

Prepare a Personal Evacuation Plan

In preparation for Outer Banks hurricane season, identify ahead of time where you could go if you are told to evacuate. Choose several places -- a friend's home in another town, a hotel in a nearby town, or a shelter. If you are vacationing on the Outer Banks and need to evacuate, remember there will be many other people evacuating as well. Early planning could make a big difference!

The Outer Banks has two evacuation routes - Hwy 158 and Hwy 64 West. Routes are well marked with blue hurricane evacuation route signs. Expect to encounter traffic congestion and several hours of waiting before exiting the area. The sooner you leave, the less congestion you will cause and encounter.

If you're staying in Corolla, Duck, or Southern Shores:

  • Head SOUTH on NC Highway 12 until you reach US Highway 158, and then:
    - NORTH on US Highway 158
    - SOUTH on US Highway 158 and then WEST on US Highway 64

If you're staying in Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, or Kitty Hawk:

  • Head NORTH on US Highway 158 or
  • Head SOUTH on US Highway 158 and then WEST on US Highway 64

Keep the telephone numbers of your destinations and a road map and/or phone GPS handy -- you may need to take alternative or unfamiliar routes if major roads are closed or clogged.

When evacuating, do not forget these items:

  • Prescription medications and medical supplies
  • Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows if available
  • Bottled water, battery-operated radio & extra batteries, first aid kit, flashlight
  • Car keys and maps
  • Any documents you may need, such as your driver's license, credit cards, etc.

Listen to NOAA weather radio, local radio, the Weather Channel, or national news if possible. Pay attention to local officials and if advised to evacuate, do so immediately. The roads will be getting busy and the earlier you leave, the less congestion you will deal with.

Returning to the OBX After a Hurricane Has Passed

After the storm has passed, do not return to the area until re-entry has been advised by local officials and Seaside Vacations. Time is needed to assess storm damage and begin clean-up. Conditions in the area could include no electricity, inadequate gasoline, and food supplies, contaminated water, impassable roadways, and damaged houses.

For any storm-related questions, you may email us at We will do our best to answer all emails received. However, please keep in mind that our ability to answer emails will be weather-dependent.

For the most up-to-date storm happenings, we suggest you follow our status updates on our Facebook page.

Re-Entry Stages for Returning to the Outer Banks

Stage 1: Critical need personnel identified by special permit issued by the Municipal Mayors and the Chairman of the Dare County Control Group.

Stage 2: Permanent residents and essential personnel for critical businesses with a Dare County driver's license, or a current Dare County tax receipt.

Stage 3: Non-resident property owners and non-resident employees of non-critical businesses identified by a solid color permit or a current Dare County tax receipt.

Stage 4: General public and visitors. No re-entry pass is needed

Hurricane FAQs


The official hurricane season for the Atlantic basin is from June 1 to November 30, but tropical cyclone activity sometimes occurs before and after these dates, respectively. The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is September 10, with most activity occurring between mid-August and mid-October.

For more information:,%2DAugust%20and%20mid%2DOctober.


Hurricanes can form almost anywhere in the Tropical Atlantic Basin from the West Coast of Africa near the Cape Verde Islands to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. There are several prime areas where development can occur depending on the time of year and necessary environmental conditions.

The most common places for hurricanes to develop in the Atlantic Basin include:

  • The Gulf of Mexico: With water temperatures ranging from 85-90° during hurricane season, this is a very favorable region for hurricane development. Hurricanes from this region generally move into the Gulf Coast states from Texas to Florida. 
  • The Western Caribbean: Favorable upper winds make this area a hotspot for hurricane development during the season. Its cousins, the Eastern and Central Caribbean, are usually not favorable areas due to hostile upper-level winds. Hurricanes from this region generally move into the Gulf Coast area, or along the East Coast.
  • Cape Verde Islands: The granddaddy of hurricane hotspots, this is the most common area for hurricane development starting in August, when water temperatures become warm enough to support tropical formation. Hurricanes from this region generally travel west towards the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States.


  • hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible in the specified area of the watch, usually within 36 hours.
  • hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area of the warning, usually within 24 hours.


  • Tropical Depression (winds up to 39 mph): Rough seas, small craft warnings. Barametric pressure is estimated at 29.73". 
  • Tropical Storm (winds 39 - 73 mph): Heavy seas, capsizing of smaller vessels, flooding of low areas, heavy rain. Storm surge is less than 4' above normal. Barametric pressure is less than 29.53". 
  • Hurricane Category 1 (winds 74 - 95 mph): Light damage to buildings. Damage to unanchored mobile homes, and poorly constructed signs. Some coastal flooding with minor pier damage. Storm surge is generally 4-5' above normal. Barometric pressure is between 28.94" and 29.53". 
  • Hurricane Category 2 (winds 96 - 110 mph): Some damage to building roofs, doors, and windows. Considerable damage to mobile homes. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings may break their moorings. Some trees blown down. Storm surge is generally 6-8' above normal. Barometric pressure is between 28.50" and 28.91". 
  • Hurricane Category 3 (winds 111 - 130 mph): Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings. Large trees blown down. Mobile homes and poorly built signs destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland. Storm surge is generally 9-12' above normal. Barometric pressure is between 27.91" and 28.47". 
  • Hurricane Category 4 (winds 131 - 155 mph): More extensive curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland. Tornado threat inland. Storm surge is generally 13-18' above normal. Barometric pressure is between 27.17" and 27.88". 
  • Hurricane Category 5 (winds 155 mph and greater): Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures. Severe Flooding with major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required. Storm surge is generally greater than 18' above normal. Barometric pressure is below 27.17".


This is the small area of clear weather that is denoted by calm winds and even sunny skies. It is the center of the lowest pressure within the hurricane. The wall of winds around the hurricane tends to be some of the strongest.


This is the "wall" of the "eye" of the storm and is where the most severe weather and highest sustained winds are generally reported. It is the absolute last place you want to be in a hurricane.


This is the term for the large dome of water that accompanies the landfall of a hurricane. It is responsible for 90% of all deaths that occur.


Quite simply, because it is easy for residents in the affected area to recognize, remember and understand.


The National Hurricane Center created the list of names we use to name hurricanes. Names are rotated on a six-year basis, with a rotating list of male and female names. Whenever a particularly powerful storm hits land, (such as Hurricane Andrew in 1992), the name is then retired from the list to avoid confusion in the future.

The average number of named storms (depressions or tropical storms) each season has grown to about 14. The average number of hurricanes that form each season is around 7, 3 of which will generally become major hurricanes.

For more information about hurricane names, visit the National Hurricane Center.