FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gov. Linda Lingle and Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, spoke yesterday about hurricane preparedness.
State emphasizes storm readiness
Lingle signs new preparedness measures as she urges caution against complacency
When it comes to hurricanes, lucky you live in the Pacific.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center predicted yesterday a below-average hurricane season this year, with two or three tropical cyclones expected in the central Pacific region.
Meanwhile, the prediction for the northern Atlantic is that as many as 16 storms severe enough to be named will be generated, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, and four to six of those major hurricanes.
The good news for Hawaii is based in the fact that ocean temperatures near the equator are normal, said James Weyman, director of the hurricane center. It is when waters are warmer than normal, known as the El Nino effect, or colder than usual that storm systems are generated with greater frequency.
"Even if we have fewer storms, that doesn't mean we can't have an intense storm," Weyman said, warning that islanders still need to prepare for a hurricane.
1982 STAR-BULLETIN PHOTO
A motorist dodges damage in Mokuleia after Hurricane Iwa hit in November 1982.
The National Weather Service's annual news conference to forecast the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season was used as a stage for Gov. Linda Lingle to sign three bills relating to hurricane preparedness. She approved $9 million for emergency readiness, including $2 million for the Red Cross, saying it is the first time the agency has received state help for its assistance of storm victims. The bill also provides $2 million to the Queen's Medical Center for an emergency backup electrical system and $500,000 for the state Civil Defense Agency to be staffed daily around the clock for the first time.
Two new Hawaii laws were in response to the chaos when the Gulf Coast was struck by Hurricane Katrina.
» One law makes it a Class B felony to attack law enforcement or Civil Defense personnel, National Guard or active military members who are responding to an emergency. It also targets looters, making it a Class A felony to burglarize a home, and a Class B felony to burglarize a business during a civil defense emergency.
» The state will make rules providing for pets to be accommodated in emergency shelters during a disaster under another bill passed by the Legislature.
"What we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, we saw those few people in society who want to take advantage of disaster. The law makes it clear they will be dealt with severely," Lingle said.
1982 STAR-BULLETIN PHOTO
After Hurricane Iwa struck in 1982, the Waikiki heliport parking lot was filled with sand and boulders left by wind-whipped waves.
Weyman and Lingle both expressed concern that the lower likelihood of serious storms will make residents complacent.
"People think they can sit back and have nothing to worry about," Weyman said. "We need to prepare for every year because we don't know when the big one is coming. It only takes one hurricane that can cause devastation for the islands. I can forecast with absolute certainty that a hurricane will hit Hawaii. I just can't predict when."
Lingle said she and her Cabinet will make it a point to "ask audiences how many actually have a hurricane preparedness kit in hand. My guess is that very few hands will go up. You need to review a plan with your family to decide what you would do."
Some military facilities might be added as shelters, said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, head of state Civil Defense. "We are looking to make available some of the installations built up in World War II. We have one near our own headquarters in Diamond Head Crater." Lee said the possibility of military help was discussed last week in a joint state and military emergency preparedness exercise. He said it could add space for 10,000 more people in shelter. The state is 124,000 evacuation shelter spaces short of its statewide goal.
Weyman said the average forecast would be 4.5 hurricanes in a season. The trend since 1995 has been for an average or below-average number of storm systems. The only exception was 1997, when warmer waters caused a strong El Nino year.
Last year was a La Nina -- colder waters -- year, he said. No hurricanes reached Hawaii, although two systems reached hurricane force before they dissipated.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Officials showed suggested items for a hurricane preparedness kit yesterday, including canned goods, a first-aid kit and bottled water.
Recent storm forecasts proved accurate
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu has been accurate in forecasting tropical cyclones -- including tropical storms, tropical depressions and hurricanes -- in Hawaii waters in recent years. Fortunately, the storms did not slam the islands.
Satellite microwave technology now provides forecasters with enhanced ability to track a storm and gauge its strength, said James Weyman, director of the center.
Here are the storms that entered the Central Pacific in the past three years:
» 2005: The center predicted two or three tropical cyclones. There were three. One stayed a tropical depression. In September, Hurricane Jova reached Category 3 hurricane status for 36 hours but moved northeast, away from the islands. Hurricane Kenneth dissipated off the Big Island later in September, but its remnants brought heavy rain and flooding to the Big Island, Kauai and Oahu.
» 2004: Forecasters predicted four to five storms. There were three, one a tropical depression. Tropical Storm Darby in August fizzled east of the islands, and Hurricane Estelle in August was downgraded to a tropical depression that passed well south of the islands.
» 2003: The forecast of two to three storms was borne out with a tropical depression and Hurricane Jimena in early September, which was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it passed south of the Big Island.
Alleta and Akoni lead lists
The two hurricanes in recent history that did devastating damage in the islands had Hawaiian names, Iwa in November 1982 and Iniki in 1992.
If a tropical cyclone blows this way in 2006, its name will depend on where it starts. Storms that form closer to the North American continent will be named from a list that starts with Aletta. Storms that form between 140 degrees west longitude and the international date line get a Polynesian name. The Hawaiian Islands are at about 154 degrees west longitude.
Akoni tops the list for this year's "local born" hurricanes.
The United States began naming tropical cyclones alphabetically in 1953. Before 1978 the hurricanes were given women's names, but since then male and female names alternate.
Central North Pacific names: Akoni, Ema, Hana, Io, Keli, Lala, Moke, Nele, Oka, Peke, Uleki, Wila
Eastern North Pacific names: Aletta, Bud, Carlotta, Daniel, Emilia, Fabio, Gilma, Hector, Ileana, John, Kristy, Lane, Miriam, Norman, Olivia, Paul, Rosa, Sergio, Tara, Vicente, Willa, Xavier, Yolanda, Zeke