Travel AlertU.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
This information is current as of today,
May 30, 2008
This Travel Alert is being issued to alert U.S. citizens to the Hurricane Season in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The official Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June through November. This Travel Alert expires November 30, 2008.
National Weather Service officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict a 65 percent chance that activity during the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season will be above normal this year, forecasting 12 to 16 named storms, with 6 to 9 becoming hurricanes. NOAA recommends that those in hurricane-prone regions begin preparations at this time for the upcoming season.
After some storms, U.S. citizens have encountered often uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, conditions that have lasted for several days while they awaited transportation back to the United States. Many U.S. citizens traveling abroad in affected regions have been forced to delay their return to the United States due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability. Damage to roads can limit access to airports and land routes out of affected areas. Flights can be suspended and passengers face long delays before normal airport operations and flight schedules resume. There have also been instances of looting and sporadic violence after natural disasters. Security personnel may not be readily available to assist at all times.
Should a situation require an evacuation from an overseas location, the State Department will work with commercial airlines to ensure the safest and most efficient repatriation of U.S. citizens possible. Commercial airlines are the Department’s primary source of transportation in an evacuation. Other means of transport are used only as a last resort.
The Department of State will not provide no-cost transportation, but does have the authority to provide repatriation loans to those in financial need. U.S. citizens should always obtain travel insurance to cover unexpected expenses during an emergency.
U.S. citizens living in or traveling to storm-prone regions overseas should prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms by organizing a kit containing a supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand crank radio, and vital documents (especially passport and identification) in a waterproof container. Emergency shelters often have access only to basic resources and limited medical and food supplies.
U.S. citizens should monitor local radio, the National Weather Service at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov, and local media to stay aware of any weather developments in their area. Minor tropical storms can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation. Travelers should apprise family and friends in the U.S. of their whereabouts, and keep in close contact with their tour operator, hotel staff, and local officials for evacuation instructions in the event of a weather emergency. Travelers should also protect their travel and identity documents against loss or damage, as the need to replace lost documentation could hamper or delay return to the United States.
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the Department of State’s travel registration website at https://travelregistration.state.gov. By registering, American citizens can receive the Embassy’s most recent security and safety updates during their trip. Registration also ensures that U.S. citizens can be reached should an emergency arise either abroad or at home. While Consular Officers will do their utmost to assist Americans in a crisis, travelers should always be aware that local authorities bear primary responsibility for the welfare of people living or traveling in their jurisdictions.
Additional information on hurricanes and storm preparedness may be found on the Hurricane Season 2008 page of the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/hurricane_season/hurricane_season_3795.html or in the “Hurricane Season-Know Before You Go” pamphlet at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/hurricane_season/hurricane_season_2915.html. Updated information on travel in hurricane-prone regions may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 within the United States and Canada, or from overseas, 1-202-501-4444. Travelers to the region are encouraged to check the Internet site of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with consular responsibilities for the territory they will be visiting (accessible via http://usembassy.state.gov/). For further information please consult the Country Specific Information Sheet for the country or territory in question, available via the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.