Hurricane season is coming to an end on November 30th, and it has been quite the season for Hawaii.The Central Pacific Hurricane season started off with remnants of a Hawaiian-named storm bringing record rain to the islands.
"Tropical Storm Wali, actually weakened well east of the state; but it brought a lot of tropical moisture to the islands," said John Bravender, a National Weather Service Meteorologist. "Including some extreme rainfall rates and over 13 inches of rain on Oahu."
According to the National Weather Service, usually May through September is considered Hawaii's "dry season," but with these tropical cyclones passing in close proximity to the islands- it was the wettest dry season we've seen in 30 years.
During the summer, three tropical systems tracked towards the islands one after another. These storms all developed over the Eastern Pacific and at one time, you could see all three hurricanes actively crossing parts of the Pacific Ocean. It started with Genevieve, then Iselle, then it was followed by Julio.
"On an average year we have 4 to 5 tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific, but it is usually about every two to three years that we have one that approaches the islands that is close enough to prompt watches or warnings," said Bravender. "This case we had two different hurricanes."
On August 7th, Hurricane Iselle became the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall on Hawaii Island in recorded history and it was the first landfall that the state has seen in 22 years.
"This hurricane season actually disproved a number of common myths," said Bravender. "One that the Big Island couldn't get hit by a tropical cyclone; and two, a hurricane couldn't pass northeast of the state. And both these happened with Iselle and Julio."
Ocean waters near the islands were about two degrees Celsius above average, and this was fuel for hurricanes to come our way and brew over the warm Pacific Ocean. During the peak of summer, waters near the islands were in the low 80s.
"It is hard to say why we had so much activity near the islands this year, but one factor was the warmer ocean temperatures," said Bravender. "With the warmer temperatures, the tropical cyclones could maintain their stronger strength farther north."
The season will come to a close, with a Hawaiian-named storm bringing more record rain, but most of the heaviest bands stayed over the ocean.
According to the National Weather Service, after Ana's passing, Oahu alone received about 5 to 7 inches of rain, but if it was just about 20 miles closer to us (tracking to the NE) it would have been double that amount and perhaps resulting in more damage.
"This was just one year, and it is hard to know what to make from that; but it is certainly possible that with warmer waters near the islands we could see more tropical cyclone activity," said Bravender.
And with that in mind, the National Weather Service says that is why it is always important to be prepared. Until then, we can reflect and learn from this season.
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