Light Hurricane Season Doesn’t Mitigate Risks to Hawaii

March 6, 2017

After the 2009 El Nino season generated seven hurricanes in the Central Pacific, forecasters say the cooler ocean surface temperatures this year should produce no more than two to three tropical cyclones.

However, as Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center points out, only one significant storm is needed to cause massive damage and “that’s the one we need to prepare for.”

The Central Pacific region includes the Hawaiian island chain, which was spared last year’s worst weather. Only one hurricane, Neki, made landfall, passing near French Frigate Shoals in the northwestern part of the islands, in a sparsely populated area.

The risk to the islands from a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of more than 130 mph, is substantial. If such a storm made land fall at Kapolei, it would shut down the power grid for as much as 30 days, flooding the freeway system and effecting 70% of the homes on the island.

According to a Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility hurricane response plan, a Category 4 in southern Oahu would create flooding that would produce 200,000 tons of debris in Pearl Harbor and Waikiki.

Gov. Linda Lingle urges residents to prepare individually as the government will be able to make only limited and targeted responses in the aftermath of such a storm. “The burden is on you for your own family,” said Lingle. “You need to spend as much time and effort protecting your family, your children, as you do in their day-to-day life.”