As I wrote a few weeks ago in “The Good, the Bad, the Dusty,” El Niño is back. Although the Eastern Pacific ocean-warming phenomenon is usually associated with drought conditions in Hawai‘i, ironically, it is also linked with an increased number of Pacific hurricanes.
Hawai‘i’s hurricane season runs roughly from June through November. In an average year, we are subject to about four to five of them. But when El Niño conditions were last in affect in 1997, nine tropical cyclones traversed the Central Pacific. El Niño conditions also existed in 1992, and in September of that year, category four Hurricane Iniki battered Kaua‘i with 140 mph winds.
Climatologists tell us that El Niño will strengthen over the next few months and will continue through winter into 2010. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center urges us to be prepared for a potential “increased threat as we go through summer and into the fall.”
Peak hurricane activity occurs during the late summer, when the ocean’s surface is warmest. These Central Pacific hurricanes usually pass south of the islands. Although Kaua‘i owns the unlucky distinction of being directly hit by two major hurricanes in addition to Iniki—Dot (1959) and Iwa (1982)—records show that strong wind storms have rattled the entire island chain since the beginning of history.
On average, the islands have endured damaging hurricanes approximately every 12 years. Iniki struck 17 years ago. Statistically speaking, we are long overdue for another one.
Neighbors, it’s time to shop. That’s shop, not panic. Luckily, our friends at Costco offer 275 convenient servings of emergency rations in a handy-dandy weatherproof bucket. They had these kits when I was there last week, but when I returned to purchase one this week (silly me) they were gone. But you can get them online in a week or so for just over $100. That’s $2.75 a serving, but you must love soups, stews and pancakes because you get über servings of each. (All the meals are 100 percent vegetarian and vitamin fortified.) Don’t forget that you will need a hefty water supply to reconstitute the stuff, as well as a heat source to make it edible.
If you don’t want to opt for expensive, big-box convenience, check out the Maui County Civil Defense Website, the Hawai‘i State Civil Defense site, the Red Cross site and Ready.gov, which all include emergency plans and lists of supplies you can gather yourself.
All of the Hawaiian Islands are at risk for a hurricane, and we should all be aware in advance what actions to take. Maui is no exception (and is not protected by Haleakalā).
If you are not prepared yet, time’s a wastin’. Get your emergency plan and supplies in gear. It’s not a matter of if a hurricane will occur, but when.