Hawaii Prepares for Above-Normal Hurricane Season

National Weather Service forecasters on Wednesday said the islands could be threatened by five to eight storms from June through November. The season norm in the Central Pacific hurricane basin is four or five.

by Timothy Hurley, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser / May 23, 2019

(TNS) — With El Nino conditions expected to persist into the fall, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center is predicting a 70% chance of above-normal tropical cyclone activity during the upcoming hurricane season.

National Weather Service forecasters on Wednesday said the islands could be threatened by five to eight storms from June through November. The season norm for tropical depressions, named storms and hurricanes in the Central Pacific hurricane basin is four or five.

“The time to prepare for hurricane season is now,” said Chris Brenchley, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, at a press conference at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Forecasters said the 2019 outlook also offers a 20% chance of a near-normal season and a 10% chance of a below-normal season.

El Nino conditions are expected to push ocean temperatures in the main hurricane formation region above average, while wind shear is weaker than average, forecasters said. That’s a recipe for more hurricanes traveling to the Central Pacific from the east.

At the same time, they said, the global weather pattern is expected to worsen drought conditions across the state and trigger an early start to Hawaii’s wildfire season.

National Weather Service hydrologist Kevin Kodama said the forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center favors above-normal precipitation for windward areas of Maui County and the Big Island, including the slopes of Kona, while Oahu and Kauai could see below-normal rainfall.

However, only one season in the last six years (2017) has seen fewer than five such storms. Last year, six powerful tropical cyclones entered the Central Pacific during a five-week period, including dangerous Hurricane Lane and Tropical Storm Olivia, which made landfall on Maui and Lanai.

The 2018 season matched the Central Pacific record set in 2015 for accumulated cyclone energy, a measurement of cyclone activity used by NOAA. The total ACE, as it is called, reached 115.

In August, Category 5 Hurricane Lane was traveling north toward Oahu before it weakened under the influence of upper-level wind shear.

“Hurricane Lane for me was a wake-up call,” said Tom Travis, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. “It showed clearly that the Bad One can hit Oahu. Luckily, it didn’t last year but we must be prepared.”

Already, a tropical disturbance with a 50% chance of developing into a cyclone over the next five days was reported off the coast of Central America on Wednesday. The system was expected to meander off the coast over the next few days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In Honolulu, officials urged residents to safeguard their families and property, to prepare a 14-day supply kit and consider flood insurance.

“It is essential that you know where and how to get official information, even in the event of a power failure, and that you have your emergency supply kit ready well before any storms threaten,” Brenchley said.

The importance of the message was driven home by who was in attendance.

“I don’t think I have to remind anyone about the last hurricane season,” said Gov. David Ige, who gave prepared remarks. “Hurricane Lane brought record-setting rainfall and more than

$7 million in damage on Hawaii island. We saw heavy rains and flooding on Maui and wind damages and power outages across the state.”

Ige urged the state to get ready.

“It’s time to take action,” he said. “Listen to and be prepared for hurricane hazards and warnings. Revisit your family emergency plans. Check for supplies and make sure your family is prepared to respond to any emergencies. Most importantly, I am encouraging our community to stay vigilant and check your family supplies and preparedness.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was in the audience but did not give formal remarks.

Afterward, he said, “We weren’t invited but I showed up because I think the counties are critical. Preparedness is where the rubber meets the road. I came out to hear what was stated and to make it clear to the National Weather Service in the future they should invite the mayors of the four counties.”

Kodama said El Nino is expected to exacerbate the state’s growing dryness, especially in leeward sections of Maui County, Kauai and Hawaii island, which are already experiencing “severe” conditions and reports of parched pastures and thirsty crops.

“On leeward sides, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get any rain,” Kodama said. “It’s just going to be hot.”

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