Forecasters warn of above-average 2019 hurricane season in Central Pacific

Published: Jun. 19, 2019 at 12:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Forecasters are predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Central Pacific for 2019.

In a news conference Wednesday, National Weather Service forecasters said they are predicting five to eight tropical cyclones.

Chris Brenchley, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, said there’s a 70 percent chance of an above-average season, a 20 percent chance of a normal season — four to five tropical cyclones per season — and a 10 percent chance of a below-average season.

“The time to prepare for hurricane season is right now,” Brenchley said.

Brenchley said some of the key factors forecasters look at when predicting hurricane seasons are the state of El Niño or La Niña — which correlates with warm water — and wind shear.

Because El Niño conditions are likely to continue through this hurricane season, that means warmer water around Hawaii could fuel tropical cyclone development.

And based on long-range climate models, forecasters predict weaker wind shear. In the past, wind shear has acted as a shield for tropical cyclones making a direct hit on the islands.

“It is up to all of us to prepare ourselves, our families, the community so that we are able to be resilient in the face of any hazard,” Brenchley said. “Hurricane season presents those hazards altogether at once.”

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Fewer than 10% of people in Hawaii have flood insurance. FEMA’s readiness director warns that’s risky for residents.

“Damage from a flood could mean financial devastation, and even just one inch of water in your home is enough to cause over $25,000 worth of damage,” Colby Stanton said.

The governor attended the event along with representatives from FEMA and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

“We need to be prepared as possible, and the community is a key element in that preparation,” said Tom Travis, administrator of HI-EMA.

The hurricane season in the Central Pacific runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Last year, Hawaii saw one of its most destructive hurricane seasons in years — even though a hurricane never actually made landfall in the islands.

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There were a number of close calls, though, and a double landfall by a tropical storm.

In all, the Central Pacific saw six named tropical cyclones over the season.

They were all hurricanes — one each of a Category 1 through 4 and two Category 5 strength cyclones (Hurricanes Lane and Walaka).

The Eastern Pacific, meanwhile, saw 25 tropical cyclones — a near record-breaking year.

[MORE: American Red Cross recruiting volunteers for 2019 hurricane season]

Forecasters say the 2018 season underscore a mantra emergency preparedness officials have been saying for years: Just because a hurricane doesn’t make a direct hit doesn’t mean it can’t cause damage.

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