By: Jeff Tadashi
The official start of Central Pacific hurricane season is about two weeks away. This is the hurricane season that affects Hawaii. Hurricane season in the Central Pacific runs annually from June 1st to November 30th.
Once every decade, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revises its set of statistics used to determine when hurricane seasons are above-, near- or below-average relative to the climate record. Beginning with this year’s hurricane season outlooks, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) will use 1991-2020 as the new 30-year period of record. Using these statistics, NOAA estimates that the Central Pacific basin will maintain an average of four named storms, three hurricanes, and two major hurricanes.
Despite NOAA’s optimistic Central Pacific estimate, Tropical Storm Andres developed May 8, 2021 and became not only the first-named tropical storm of the year in the Western Hemisphere but also is the earliest-ever named storm in the East Pacific. Andres formed just about a month ahead of the average first storm for the basin, which typically occurs June 10th, and well ahead of the official start of the season, which begins on May 15th. Following a below-normal season last year, the early season development serves as a reminder not to count the season out! Even though 2020 was below average season, in July 2020 Hurricane Douglas was the closest hurricane that has come to Oahu in history.
The islands of Hawaii, with Kauai as the notable exception, are believed to be immune from direct hurricane hits because the volcanic peaks slow down or divert storms. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa both rise to elevations in excess of 13,000 feet above sea level. Haleakalā makes up 75 percent of Maui and is over 10,000 feet above sea level. There are historic examples of hurricanes aiming for a direct hit on Hawaii only to divert north or south or weaken overnight before actually making land fall. It is not uncommon for stalling hurricanes to cause flooding on Hawaii and Maui. Diverting hurricanes historically appear to weaken, stall, and then line back up on Kauai. Oahu appears to be in a safe leeward envelop west of the larger islands.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) report that the more common near-misses do generate large swells and moderately high winds that cause dangerous surf conditions, coastal road damage, and power outages. Data collected by Western Regional Climate Center show no hurricane-strength winds on any Hawaii Islands with the exception of Kauai coincidentally also the most hurricane damaged Hawaii county. Despite USGS data, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has classified all of Hawaii as a Wind-Borne Debris Region.
Something does not feel right. Though we are predicted to have a lower-than-normal hurricane season, we already have a named storm in the Eastern Pacific almost one month before the average. Last year, we had a lower-than-average season; but we had the closest hurricane to Oahu in history. I remind readers that we also did not predict the on-going pandemic and have had two tsunami warnings in 2021 already.
Luck favors the prepared. Taking the time to assemble Disaster Supplies Kit to meet the basic needs of your household will help bridge the temporary loss of everyday conveniences. The time to prepare a disaster supplies kit is now. As we have seen during an emergency, supplies will be in big demand and stores will run out of inventory quickly. Once disaster hits, there won’t be time to search for supplies. The American Red Cross recommends six basics to stock at home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing, bedding, tools and emergency supplies, and special items. Keep items you would most likely need during an evacuation in an easy – to – carry container. For more information, contact your respective county civil defense agency or local chapter of the American Red Cross. Be prepared.