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Kaua’i not yet safe from storm

Opening up the Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s Web page (www.nws.noaa.gov/)

still sends a shiver to some who recall living through Hurricane ‘Iniki eight

years ago.

The photo on the home page is ‘Iniki’s eye over

Kaua’i.

While the island has passed the normal August peak period for

Pacific hurricanes, and the absence of El Nino conditions generally mean

less-frequent storms, the head of the hurricane center cautions all to remain

on guard.

Hurricane season in Hawai’i doesn’t run from June 1 to Nov. 30

for no reason.

“It only takes one,” said James C. Weyman, area manager and

meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service Forecast Office, and

director of the hurricane center.

“That one is what we have to be prepared

for,” said Weyman, who pointed to Hurricane Andrew’s devastation of Florida in

1992 as another example. In the Atlantic in 1992, projections were for a “slow”

tropical storm season.

In 1982, during an El Nino year when warmer ocean

temperatures create more-frequent and more-powerful storms, Hurricane ‘Iwa

struck Kaua’i and Ni’ihau just before Thanksgiving.

So, although the state

this year has experienced the five or six storms Weyman predicted during the

current hurricane season, that doesn’t mean there won’t be more.

History

(1961 to 1999) shows that August is the busiest month for tropical storms,

tropical cyclones and hurricanes in the central Pacific, with 40 percent of the

storms occurring during that month (and two last month).

July is next, at

26 percent (three this year), followed by September at 20 percent (none so far

this month) and October at 10 percent. June and November share the remaining 4

percent of storms, Weyman said.

On average, four or five tropical cyclones

are observed in the central Pacific, with a low of zero most recently in 1979

and highs of 11 in 1992 and 1994.

So far in 2000, there have been five

storms. In 1999 and 1998, La Nina conditions existed, with colder-than-normal

tropical ocean temperatures and fewer storms with much power.

Storms gain

power from warm ocean waters. In El Nino years, there is a higher probability

of damaging storms forming than during La Nina years, Weyman

explained.

Current conditions are neither Nino nor Nina, and during these

normal periods (normal ocean temperatures) there is a lower probability of

storms than in El Nino years, Weyman said.

Both ‘Iniki and ‘Iwa came in El

Nino years. The last year there were 11 storms in one season (1994) was also an

El Nino year. None of the storms that year directly affected the islands, he

said.

Late-season storms come less frequently because of cooling air

temperatures chilling ocean waters, and because disturbances and troughs seem

to move away from tropical areas in favor of mid-latitude climes, he

said.

“So, you start decreasing the situations that would be favorable to

development of tropical cyclones,” said Weyman.

Staff writer Paul C.

Curtis can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) and [

HREF=”mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net”>pcurtis@pulitzer.net]

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