Forecasters are predicting an 80 percent chance of a normal or above-normal hurricane season this year in the Central Pacific.
"Our outlook for this season is for four to seven tropical cyclones," said Mike Cantin, warning coordination meteorologist for the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu. "That's either a tropical depression, a tropical storm or a hurricane."
The average is four to five tropical cyclones a year.
The above-average season prediction is linked to a developing El Nino, when sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific are warmer than normal. Historically, six to seven cyclones have formed in the central Pacific during El Nino years.
"So with an El Nino expected and developing during our season, that's what we're basing our above to normal tropical cyclones during our season," said Tom Evans, acting director of the CPHC.
"The waters are already warmer now, and we expect that continue. Maybe not warming any more, but staying warm, above normal, as we go into the peak of the season toward the end," said Cantin.
NOAA is predicting a 65 percent chance of an El Nino forming this summer. The prediction goes up to 80 percent later this year.
Hurricane Iniki made a direct hit on Kauai in 1992 and Hurricane Iwa hit the islands in 1982, both El Nino years. Iwa also developed near the end of November that year, close to the close of hurricane season, and officials said that's a possibility again this year.
Authorities are urging residents to prepare ahead of time. "The goal is that when there's a hurricane watch or a warning, people do not have to go to the store," said Dennis Wong of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant program.
Last year, the CPHC predicted a below-normal season of one to three storms with neutral sea surface temperature conditions. However, there were six storms, including Tropical Storm Flossie, which came close to the Big Island of Hawaii in July.
"Whether this year ends up busier than normal or maybe our prediction is way off and we get only a couple of storm, it only takes that one storm that approaches and impacts the state that can really do a number on you, your family or your business," said Cantin.