After a very close call, a below-average Pacific hurricane season comes to an end

Forecasters say La Nina conditions brought on cooler water temperatures. Hawaii dodged a bullet with Hurricane Douglas when it came dangerously close.
Updated: Nov. 30, 2020 at 10:35 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Monday marks the end of a fairly quiet 2020 hurricane season in the Central Pacific.

Overall, forecasters said La Nina conditions contributed to just two named tropical cyclones venturing into Hawaii waters.

The below-average season was on-par with the predictions of the National Weather Service, who anticipated two to six named cyclones this year.

The cooler water temperatures and increased wind shear from pressure gradients were Hawaii’s saving grace in fizzling out most of the storms that brewed in the East Pacific.

In all, there were 21 tropical depressions, 16 tropical storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes in the East and Central Pacific this season combined.

Despite just one real threat, Hawaii survives another year without major impacts from a...
Despite just one real threat, Hawaii survives another year without major impacts from a hurricane.(HNN)

“Cooler water along the equatorial Pacific is generally correlated with a quiet hurricane season in the Pacific, and also an active one in the Atlantic,” John Bravender of the National Weather Service said.

Hurricane Douglas put Hawaii residents on edge as it targeted the state in July.

It quickly gained strength, growing into a powerful Category 4 hurricane over the open ocean.

Forecast models at times had it passing right over the state. But as hurricane watches were upped to warnings, Douglas had other plans as it inched north, missing the state by a few dozen miles.

At one point, the center of the storm was located just 25 miles off Kahuku.

“Because we were on the south side on the left hand side of the track, we were spared. The major impacts, the heavy rain, the highest seas and the strongest winds are on the right hand side of that track just 30+ miles away, and it would’ve been a much different story,” Bravender added.

Despite not making landfall, Douglas still made its way into the record books, becoming the closest hurricane to pass Oahu to the north since official record keeping began in the 1950s.

Right now there’s no way to 100% accurately forecast the path of a hurricane as meteorologists work with the best tools and knowledge around. But technology has drastically improved in the last few decades, providing the most updated information possible.

“A big concern with the track forecast is that we know there’s error, we know there’s going to be uncertainty. And coming from that direction, it’s almost all or nothing. It either passes a little to the left of the track and hits us and causes us major damage, or it takes the track that its on and passes just north of us,” Bravender said.

Like every other official, he wants Hawaii residents to be ready year-round — not just for hurricanes, but any other natural disaster that threatens Hawaii.

“We always want people to be prepared, throughout hurricane season and even throughout the rest of the year. Make sure you have supplies on hand, make sure you have a plan of what you’re gonna do in case a natural disaster happens.”

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