HURRICANE 1 (noun) a tropical cyclone with winds of 74 mph or greater that occurs especially in the western Atlantic and is usually accompanied by rain, thunder, and lightning.

DUMB LUCK

Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne: These are the storms that made Florida's violent 2004 hurricane season one for the record books, and one that residents and visitors aren't likely to see again for a long time. The last time so many storms struck the same state in one season was 1886, when Texas took four direct hits.

‘TIS THE SEASON

Hurricane season officially begins June 1 and lasts until November 30, threatening the eastern and Gulf coasts of the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In reality, the riskiest periods are quite narrow. For example, only 24 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) hit Florida from 1900 to 1966, and of those, 15 were in September.

THAT'S INTENSE

The United States rates hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale to give an estimate of the potential flooding and damage to property. Storms rated Category 3 or higher are considered “major hurricanes,” according to the National Weather Service. Category 1 storms have winds of 74 mph to 95 mph; Category 2, 96 mph to 110 mph; Category 3, 111 mph to 130 mph; Category 4, 131 mph to 155 mph; and Category 5 is any storm with winds higher than 155 mph.

FORCE MAJEURE

Hurricanes are considered an “act of God” in legal terms. Therefore, by including a strong force majeure clause in your hotel contracts, you can protect yourself from cancellation liability. However, if the meeting is a revenue producer and your organization will take a financial hit from not holding the event, you'll need cancellation insurance to protect yourself. Among the leading companies marketing event insurance to the meetings industry are Seabury & Smith, www.expoplus.net; Aon Association Services, www.asae-aon.com; and Rust Insurance Agency Inc., www.rustinsurance.com.

READY FOR ANYTHING

Managing a meeting cancellation is a thankless task, but one that every planner should be ready to handle in a professional manner. Create an emergency plan in advance. Designate a core team of decision makers and outline a plan for communicating with management, meetings staff, attendees, and suppliers.

Sources: National Weather Service, Tropical Prediction Center, www.nws.noaa.gov; www.howstuffworks.com; Merriam-Webster Online, www.m-w.com

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