Central Pacific hurricane season begins as state continues to deal with pandemic

Weather service predicts up to 6 tropical cyclones in Central Pacific this year

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 2020 hurricane season in the Central Pacific begins Monday, and the National Weather Service is predicting two to six tropical cyclones.

Tropical cyclones include tropical depressions, named storms and hurricanes.

The season extends through Nov. 30.

Forecasters said there’s a 75% chance of a “near to below normal” season. A near-normal season has four to five tropical cyclones. There’s a 25% chance of an “above normal” season.

But authorities stressed that it only takes one hurricane to leave behind significant damage.

“We could have six tropical cyclones that stay away from Hawaii, we could have two tropical cyclones that both hit Hawaii,” said Chris Brenchley, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

The start of the hurricane season comes as the state continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sickened more than 600 in Hawaii, stretched government resources and led to more than 220,000 layoffs.

“This is a far different year,” said Maria Lutz, of the American Red Cross of Hawaii.

She added that COVID-19 concerns will mean that shelters will need to enforce social distancing, and health screenings will become standard for evacuees.

“With the advent of COVID-19, we will need to adjust Hawaii’s evacuation strategy," she said.

Lutz said masks will be required in evacuation shelters, and everyone will have their temperature checked before entering. If someone has a fever, “We’re going to designate one room to be an isolation room in the shelter," said Lutz. “This person will be directed to that room, and will be seen by a nurse there.”

State emergency officials also urged residents to have a 14-day emergency supply kit -- with some new items because of the pandemic.

“For this year we want to include masks and hand sanitizer. These are items that we not traditionally included of a 14-day kit, which we all want you to include,” said Luke Meyers, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Meyers acknowledged that putting the kit together may be difficult. “We’ve all talked about 14 days of having supplies in kits. And COVID-19 has really stretched commodities here in the state, ao we challenge you all to have a kit and have a plan," he said.

Last year, the Central Pacific saw a “near normal” season with four named tropical cyclones.

Among the cyclones last year: Hurricane Erick, which barreled south of the Hawaiian Islands.In August, meanwhile, Tropical Storm Flossie, approached Hawaii from the east but dissipated before reaching the state.

And Tropical Storm Akoni entered the Central Pacific as a tropical depression before strengthening.

For a full list of last year’s storms, click here.

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