Key West in June is hump month. It’s the 30 days following the “saying farewell” months of April and May when visitors and snowbirds leave. In June, the weather is perfect and our island catches its breath. Key West in June is the break we get before summer sets in and we sweat and swear through Grumble Season. After June, there’s no going back until we get to the other side of hurricane season the end of November.
Key West in June just might be my favorite month. Here’s why:
It rains in Key West in June
1. Mary, Joseph and the Wee Donkey! It’s raining. May through October is rainy season and once that pattern gets going in June, it’s gonna rain pretty much every day. Sometimes over night. Hard. Sometimes a shower or thunder storm. Occasionally it’s like this week with daily downpours as we watch a nasty little weather front, an offshoot of Hurricane Agatha, slide across the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s raining. No more using the Florida Keys Aquaduct Authority to add water to the pool. No more checking on potted plants to make sure they’re not trapped in drought-hardened soil. It’s pouring down rain as I write. The trees are happy; leaves drip dust.
We get about three-quarters of our annual rainfall between June and October and September brings the most rain. By September, I am “raingry,” meaning, as is probably clear, I am not thrilled about another rain dump and having to wear wellies because of the flooding. But June in Key West? Oh, lands, do I love the rain.
Key West in June brings sargassum
2. The stink from early-arriving sargassum hasn’t overcome the island. It will. There’s going to come a day in late June when I open the door in the morning and shout something to the extent of “Crikey! It’s back.” We’ll live with that stench until the end of hurricane season when winds shift and the stuff stops piling up on the sand. The University of South Florida, which monitors the sargassum flow, predicts another major season in 2022.
Ranger Ed and I stopped to walk the newly-restored Sandspur Beach at Bahia Honda last week. Well, we wanted to walk. But we didn’t have a shovel or a rake, two things you may want to have handy. Two-three-foot piles of sargassum extend the length of the beach in rampart-like rows. Because the state doesn’t clear its park beaches, you’ll need to carve your own path through the sargassum — and that’s before you actually make it to the water, which was, that day, much like syrupy chocolate pudding.
Key West beaches get cleaned up pretty regularly, though the water can be soupy. Fort Zach is a state beach so don’t expect any clean up. However, the way the current passes by and around Zach usually means the on-shore piles aren’t unmanageable. We were there on Memorial Day and the sargassum wasn’t too bad, though I personally skipped the water.
Storms here and there will clear out the water and shorelines during sargassum season, but if you’re planning beach days later this summer, be prepared for some challenging sargassum.
If you want to know more about sargassum, including a rabbit hole of additional links, I write an annual “everything you should know” column. I’ll be updating in shortly; in the meantime, here’s the link.
It’s (sorta) not hurricane season
3. It’s not hurricane season. Well, it is. But not yet really. June’s when we remember we need plastic bags for the makeshift toilet. Hurricane season starts June 1, but the worst of it usually isn’t until September. June is when the National Weather Service in Key West reminds us to drag out the hurricane prep lists and we bookmark NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center. We keep the gas tank filled. We begin collecting a wad of cash. We hunt up all five of the cat carriers and give the pull-start generator a tune up. We know it’s coming; just not right yet.
Crowds are gone in June
4. Crowds are gone. I couldn’t say that in 2020 or 2021. We were Covid-destination-central back then. But this year? Looks like a quiet June — and maybe summer — ahead. No one’s exactly sure what this current lull portends, but it’s certainly real. Memorial Day was eerily quiet. Now this could just be because family vacations haven’t kicked in and maybe the summer will go nuts like the last two have. But, I’m betting that’s not happening. Honestly, the island’s “white noise” cacophony, ubiquitous since June 2020, is silent.
June in Key West is family time
5. It’s family time. With the crowds gone, Key West locals and long-time residents are out and about. At ball fields and graduations. At the splash pad and at the sand bars. We wandered through the parking lots at Fort Zach on Memorial Day and it felt like resident-stickers and bikes out numbered rental cars. The same in the grocery store; locals chatting in the aisles, something I haven’t seen in a while. Restaurants accepting walk-ups and spaces at the happy hour bars. A handsome number of visitors remains but the island isn’t overwhelmed.
We have our island home back. The hurricanes and sargassum will come. Our visitors will return. I’ll swear at the rain. But for now it’s June in Key West.