Tuesday, May 18, 1999

One hurricane, rain
shortages in forecast

By Susan Kreifels


Weather forecasters predict a normal hurricane season this year -- about five tropical cyclones, including one hurricane -- or less.

And they said the state's leeward areas will continue to suffer rain shortages with the approaching dry season.

Federal and local officials yesterday kicked off hurricane season -- June through November -- and Hurricane Awareness Week with a news conference that included advice on how to prepare for natural weather disasters.

The Honolulu Forecast Office will hold an open house for the public from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The office is located in the HIG Building at 2525 Correa Road, Suite 250, on the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus.

Most importantly, weather and disaster officials said families need to plan ahead to protect lives and property. They can start by checking the front pages of the telephone book for instructions.

The bottom line

"It only takes one hurricane to strike the island, and it could be a catastrophe," said Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

Hurricane forecasts are based on statistical averages over the past 37 years and the anticipated persistence of La Nina -- colder than normal temperature at the sea surface. However, in any given season, the number of hurricanes can vary from none to 11.

Weyman said the worst-hit months for hurricanes are July through October. He said damages caused by vandalism to weather buoy No. 4, 200 miles southeast of Big Island, will be fixed within a week.

Some new sources of information to help people set up "emergency operation centers" in their own homes: those with computers can check and click weather; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will begin to automate its weather broadcast, called NOAA Weather Radio 2000, on June 1. It will gradually add hourly forecasts over the next several months.

Round-the-clock reports

The synthesized voice recordings, which will be hooked into the Emergency Alert System, will provide more current and precise weather information with a voice that sounds more human. With a message encoder that can be purchased at electronic stores for $30 for forecasts of all areas to $85 for specific areas -- Specific Area Message Encoder, or SAME -- listeners will be able to pick up 24-hour weather and high surf reports. NOAA wants listener comments and ideas. E-mail or call 973-5275.

Regarding rainfall, Tom Heffner, NOAA warning coordination meteorologist, said the leeward sides of Oahu, the Big Island and Maui have been "very, very dry" this year and that will continue through the upcoming dry season. Heffner said the rain over the weekend is rare for May.

Weak tradewinds caused the rain shortage in those areas, while the windward and mountainous areas have seen stronger tradewinds and more rain.

Heffner said La Nina didn't affect the state's leeward sides.


On other topics, Maui was recently named one of 120 U.S. communities in Project Impact, said Bill Carwile with the Pacific Area Office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The island is eligible for up to $500,000 in federal money to develop emergency management partnerships with businesses, nonprofit agencies and volunteers. The Big Island already has started working on projects and Carwile said he hopes to get Kauai on board soon as well.

Meanwhile the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund is educating the public about the importance of retrofitting homes -- making them more resistant to hurricane damage, said Amori Ogata, the fund's executive director. Only 1 percent to 3 percent of the 150,000 Hawaii homes covered by the fund have done so.

Homeowners can save up to 40 percent on the average $375 annual premiums if they retrofit their homes. However, the costs for retrofitting -- like reinforcing roofs and walls and protecting shutters and doors -- can cost several thousand dollars.

Tough sell

That makes retrofitting a "very difficult sell," Ogata said. That's why the state fund wants to educate the public on why to do it: to protect lives and avoid property damage claims, which can take years to pay off completely if the fund runs out of money.

Hurricane insurance is required for home mortgages, and private insurers are reluctant to offer it because of high risk. The Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund was developed in 1993.

The fund has $1.26 billion on hand to pay claims, Ogata said. Hurricane Iniki on Kauai cost $800 million for housing damage alone. Ogata said highly developed Oahu would cost much more if hit by a bad hurricane, and that could mean damage claims would take years to pay off fully.


1999 to date: Near or above normal for mountainous areas, below normal for leeward areas.

Big Island

Bullet Windward areas: Glenwood, rainfall over 20 inches for six consecutive months, above normal for 13 months.
Bullet Waiakea Uka: Upslope from Hilo, rainfall over 20 inches for seven of last eight months.
Bullet Leeward: Kona, 30-55 percent of normal rainfall.


Bullet Windward: 40-70 percent of normal.
Bullet Leeward: Kihei, zero rainfall for March and April.


Bullet Windward: 90-110 percent of normal rainfall in Koolaus and vicinity.
Bullet Leeward: Below normal. Honolulu airport saw 45 percent of normal, or 0.68 of an inch.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin