10 SAFEST FLORIDA CITIES
FROM HURRICANES

By  Mike Miller  November 16, 2021

The 10 safest Florida cities from hurricanes are typically located in the central and northeastern parts of the Sunshine State.  I created this list on November 16, 2021.

Hurricane Isabel September 15, 2003Hurricane Isabel September 15, 2003
Photo by NASA from International Space Station

Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, but those of us who have lived here for many years can remember some exceptions that fall out of that range.

It is important to note that there is really no totally safe place in Florida during hurricane season.  The best we can do is study how  a place did during past hurricane seasons.

Remember:  one bad hurricane hitting one of these currently "safest" cities could knock it off the list.

Long Key, Florida After a HurricaneLong Key, Florida After a Hurricane in 1935
Florida Memory, State Archives of Florida

The best places to be during tropical storms or hurricanes are those areas that are less likely to suffer a direct hit.

The location of a direct hit usually has the highest wind velocities and the most severe risk of tidal flooding and large storm surges. 

These locations are usually on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida.

Star Shows Locations of 10 Safest Florida Cities From HurricanesStar Shows Locations of 10 Safest Florida Cities From Hurricanes

Here is our list of safest places to be during hurricane season.  We have based the list on various insurance company sources.

It is because "safest" usually translates to the least property damage and loss of life from hurricanes. 

10 SAFEST FLORIDA CITIES FROM HURRICANES

1. PALATKA is a small city of 10,500 people on the St Johns River about 60 miles upriver (south) from Jacksonville.

It is strategically located at a sharp bend on the river that is the unofficial boundary between "upriver" and "downriver" St. Johns.

Palatka is part of the Florida Main Street Program that has helped restore the downtown areas of many Florida towns.

Some of the old buildings are decorated with colorful murals celebrating milestones in the city's history.

A nearby town on the St. Johns River is Green Cove Springs and the small retirement village of Penney Farms is not far west of Palatka.

2. LAKE CITY is in North Florida south of the intersection of I-10 and I-75, and is also at the junction of US-90 and US-441. 

The population is about 13,000 and it is the seat of Columbia County.  It is located about 60 miles west of Jacksonville and 106 miles east of Tallahassee.

Lake City is where the colleges originated that eventually merged to became the University of Florida.

Some small towns in the Lake City area include Live Oak, White SpringsMacclenny,  and Glen St. Mary.

3LEESBURG is a small city in Central Florida on the Harris Chain of Lakes about 45 miles northwest of Orlando. It's nearest big neighbor is The Villages Florida.

The Harris Chain includes Little Lake Harris, Lake Harris, Lake Griffin, Lake Eustis, and Lake Dora.

In addition to The Villages, other towns in the vicinity of Leesburg include Fruitland ParkEustisMount DoraTavaresUmatilla,  and Howey in the Hills.

4. ORLANDO is strategically located in the center of Florida and is the largest city on our list.  It is located at the intersection of I-4 and the Florida Turnpike, and is surrounded by one of the country's greatest toll systems.

Other major roads that go through town are US-17, US-92, SR-50 and US-441.  This confluence of highways is the big reason so many large theme parks are located in Orlando.

Other places in the Orlando area include Winter ParkWinter Garden,   ClermontOcoeeWindermere, and Oakland. 

5. SANFORD is a unique old town on Lake Monroe about 22 miles north of downtown Orlando. 

Lake Monroe is one of the wide lakes that are part of the long St. Johns River system that extends all the way north to Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean.

Sanford is a modern city with marinas and parks on a bustling waterfront and a downtown area that has been renovated and turned into a vibrant district with many shops and restaurants.

The historic village of Enterprise is on the north shore of Lake Monroe across from Sanford.

WHEN IN DOUBT, BAIL OUT!

I have lived in Florida since 1960 and have been through many hurricanes and tropical storms, some bad and some not so bad.

My advice to newcomers to the state is that no matter where you live in Florida, if a hurricane is heading toward your home go someplace else.  Even though you may live in one of these "safest cities" it is not one of the best places to be during a hurricane.

The key is to go as soon as you can because if you delay too long you run the risk of getting caught up in the jammed highways loaded with other people who also waited too long to get out of town.

If you can't bail out in time, most communities have lists of the safest places where you can ride out the storm.

6. KISSIMMEE is 22 miles south of Orlando and 12 miles southeast of Walt Disney World. The correct way to pronounce its name is kiss-IM-mee

Its 2020 population is 77,000, and it is the County Seat of Osceola County.

A couple of lakes in the area are Lake Tohopekaliga and East Lake Tohopekaliga.  Locals simplify things by calling them "Toho", as in Lake Toho.

An interesting nearby town is St. Cloud on East Lake Toho.

7. NAPLES is in far Southwest Florida on the gulf coast.  It is the only town on our list on the Gulf of Mexico.  Its population is 22,206, and it is one of the wealthiest cities in Florida.

It is located on Interstate 75 and US-41. Both of these highways come down from the north and when they reach Naples they bend east toward Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

One of the worst hurricanes in Florida history was Donna which came ashore in 1960 and did a lot of damage to Naples.  So even one of today's safest cities in a hurricane may not be on the list in the future.

Nearby neighbors to Naples are Marco Island and Ave Maria.

8. OCALA is a busy city south of Gainesville and north of The Villages Florida. It is the seat of government of Marion County.

The city has a population of about 61,810 but it's in the middle of Marion County with 378,613 people.

These days the rolling hills around Ocala are known as prime territory for raising thoroughbred horses.

9. GAINESVILLE is located in North Central Florida and has a population of about 135,000. 

The city is on the major north-south highways  I-75 and US-441 and is the home of the University of Florida.  

Gainesville is a comfortable family town with the rolling terrain and large oak trees typical of north central Florida. 

Some small towns near Gainesville are MelroseWillistonHigh SpringsNewberry, MicanopyMcIntosh, Cross Creek, and Trenton.

10. FERNANDINA BEACH is as far northeast on the Atlantic Coast as you can get in the Sunshine State.  It is the only city on this list located on the Atlantic Ocean.

It is on the south bank of the St. Marys River that divides Florida and Georgia.  Perched on the north end of Amelia Island, it is a natural deep water seaport.

It was one of Florida's first major cities.  The downtown area of the town preserves and displays many of the old historic buildings. 


CHECK OUT A CITY'S OTHER SAFETY FACTORS

Just a reminder that the 10 safest Florida cities from hurricanes may not always be safe in other ways.  You will have to check other sources for crime rates involving property crimes or violent crimes.

Florida has some cities and towns with crime rates above the national average.  Natural disasters are not the only things to check out when you are considering a move. 

What may be a safe place during hurricane season may not be a great place to live the rest of the year.  Check out our page on some of these great places to live:

10 Safest Cities in Florida


THE CRAZY 2004 HURRICANE SEASON

In 2004 Florida was struck by four hurricanes in six weeks.  They messed up the entire state of Florida and had a direct impact on me.

The first was Hurricane Charley which came ashore on August 13 at Punta Gorda.  It did extreme damage in the area, including destroying my sailboat that was berthed at Burnt Store Marina.

Then on September 5 along came Hurricane Frances that came in on the east coast near Stuart.  I owned a house in Melbourne that was under contract.  I was not able to close until the hurricane passed because you can't get insurance at such at time.

On September 16 Hurricane Ivan came ashore just west of Gulf Shores, Alabama and did extensive damage to the Pensacola area.

The along came Hurricane Jeanne on September 26, coming across the state pretty much on the same path as Frances.  It further delayed the closing on the sale of my house.

Most of us discovered there were not many places to hide out during this crazy hurricane season.



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