LESS IS MORE: Fernandina on List of Least Hurricane Risk

Fernandina Beach on list of “10 Safest Florida Cities from Hurricanes.”

Where in Florida is less likely to be hit by severe weather events?  Instead of one making landfall here, Fernandina Beach landed on a list of “10 Safest Florida Cities from Hurricanes,” in 2015 (see more about list below).

Wary of Weather?

For those who may be wary of weather, and some who might be thinking about moving to Florida, where are the less prone areas of the state for tropical storms?

“10 Safest Florida Cities from Hurricanes”

HomeInsurance.com released the results of collected data and published a list of the “10 Safest Florida Cities from Hurricanes,” (dated May 28, 2015). Fernandina Beach is on this list of cities determined to have the lowest risk of storms and flooding.

“Low Combined Score”

FERNANDINA BEACH: “More than 11,500 people reside in the Nassau County city, and it ranks on our list due to low combined tropical storm, hurricane, and flood scores.”

SOURCE: HomeInsurance.com
Historic District -- Downtown Fernandina Beach, Centre Street
Historic District, Downtown Fernandina, Centre St.

It’s interesting to see what other Florida cities are considered “to be at less of a risk for severe weather strikes,”  according to HomeInsurance.com. With Florida one of the most heavily visited tourist destinations in the nation, travelers may also be interested in this list. Note that Orlando, with 62 million visitors in 2014, also ranks in the “Top 10 safest cities.” The University of Florida, home to the Florida Gators, is located in another city on the list, Gainesville.

Another study was completed by researchers in the Dept. of Geography at Florida State University in Tallahassee. They examined Florida hurricane landfalls from 1900 through 2007 and indicated, “there is a notable lack of hurricane strikes along the northeast coast and around the western peninsula north of Cedar Key.” However, read further below about northeast Florida’s hurricane history of the late 1800s, a more ominous time for tropical storms.

Florida’s Nine Year Hurricane-Free Streak

The entire state has had no hurricanes make landfall for a record length of time. Florida has been hurricane-free for nine consecutive storm seasons through 2014, a record. (This is according to data reportedly going all the way back to the year 1851).

Some would say Mother Nature’s been very kind to Florida during this welcomed storm-free stretch. Or call it plain good luck, and residents are thankful. But lucky streaks end.

Population Growth

In the years since the last hurricane, an estimated two million more new residents have moved into Florida. Florida’s population is now bigger than New York’s. The Sunshine State is now the third most populous in the USA (estimated 19.9 million people living in Florida in 2015).

Residents and newcomers should stay current with hurricane preparedness tips and be ready for the next storm that eventually will show its wrath.

Amelia Island Cat 1 Evacuation Zone

The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1 and ends November 30 each year. In the event that a Category 1  hurricane is projected to be near northeast Florida, there will be a mandatory evacuation of Amelia Island. However, it’s not just near the ocean that can be inundated from storm surge. According to Nassau County’s website, “Depending on the scenario (i.e. Storm Category, Forward Speed, Direction, Ground Saturation), water depths all over Nassau County could reach from a few inches to over 25 feet; surge can cause flooding well into our river basins, not just at the coast.”

39 MPH Winds Close Bridges

According to Nassau County’s website, “Once sustained winds reach 39 MPH, bridges will be closed for safety, so evacuation of the island must already be complete.”

Find out more about Nassau County, Florida Hurricane Evacuation Zones at the county’s website.  Also see city of Fernandina Beach hurricane preparedness tips and info at city’s website.

Northeast FL Hurricane History

During the 20th century, only one hurricane made landfall in northeast Florida. Back in 1964, Hurricane Dora, as a Category 2, landed in St. Augustine with winds estimated at 125 MPH. America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, is about an hour’s drive south of Fernandina Beach. Reportedly, Dora caused an estimated $200-$250 million in damage at the time in northeast Florida (said to translate to around $2.5 billion in 2014 dollars). Fernandina Beach damage included losing homes to the sea along the beachfront.

Hurricane Floyd

Amelia Island residents experienced a mandatory evacuation due to hurricane Floyd back in September 1999, a storm that passed by the Florida east coast (staying out to sea). While causing some damage and flooding, it was a near miss that thankfully ended well for islanders.

The Track of Hurricane Floyd in 1999
The Track of Hurricane Floyd in 1999
Remember 2004-2005?

Before the 9-year hurricane lull in the Sunshine State, eight hurricanes in two years affected Florida back in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Florida residents elsewhere in the state are all too familiar with the names Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Nassau County, FL residents also remember, especially those in western parts of the county that suffered plenty of downed trees and power outages that lasted as long as two weeks.

2004 Hurricanes (Image: Cooperative Inst. For Meteorological Satellite Studies)
2004 Hurricanes (Image: Cooperative Inst. For Meteorological Satellite Studies)
Hurricanes of the late 1800s

Turning the clock back to the 19th century, a different, more ominous storm picture emerges in northeast Florida, an era when the region did not fare so well. There was the “hurricane of 1898” that hit northeast Florida, reportedly blasting Fernandina with 115 MPH winds. The “old train depot,” a familiar Fernandina landmark that sits at the foot of Centre Street today, was built in 1899. It replaced the original depot that was destroyed by the 1898 hurricane.

During the year 1871, reports indicate two Category 1 hurricanes hit Nassau County, Florida plus another one was recorded in 1874.  In the future, hopefully, a look back at hurricanes of the 21st century will mirror the 20th century in Fernandina Beach and northeast Florida, rather than the 19th.

Hurricane Updates Since 2015

** Hurricane News Update ** — Since the year 2015 (after this article was published), Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island, Florida has experienced five emergency evacuations during the seven hurricane seasons from 2016 through 2022. Amelia Island was evacuated for Hurricane Matthew (2016), then for Irma (2017), Dorian (2019), and for two hurricanes during one season, Ian and Nicole (2022). Thankfully, none of these hurricanes made landfall here in this region at the Florida-Georgia border. To learn more about this active hurricane period, including local impacts, read related published content, see links below:

Editorial note: This Amelia Island Living article originally published in 2015 has been revised/updated to include the five more recent Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island hurricane evacuations through year 2022.