LIHUE — A cyclone that was following a similar track as 1992’s Hurricane Iniki was upgraded to tropical storm status early Friday, but then unexpectedly weakened in the afternoon and was downgraded to a tropical depression.
Officials from the National Weather Services’ Central Pacific Hurricane Center still anticipate that the cyclone, named Kilo, will eventually gain hurricane strength, and that it could grow as strong as a category 2 hurricane by Wednesday.
“It’s temporarily looked like it’s weakened some. Not exactly sure why other than there is a little extra (wind) shear there than expected,” said meteorologist Chris Brenchley. “The ingredients are there for it to re-strengthen as it continues to move to the north-northwest.”
A cyclone is upgraded from a tropical depression to a tropical storm once it has sustained winds of 39 mph, and it is designated a hurricane when sustained winds hit 74 mph. Currently, Kilo has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.
But, Brenchley added, that “It’s not unheard of that these systems have more trouble organizing than expected.”
At this point, Kilo’s path is highly uncertain, although it is expected to eventually curve off to the northeast in the direction of Kauai. When and where Kilo makes a turn will determine whether it poses a threat to the island.
“The forecast remains very similar to previous, but it would be starting out weaker,” Brenchley said Thursday.
Brenchley said the most immediate impact is likely heavy rain due to a far-reaching moisture band that should extend over the entire state, including Kauai, by Sunday. The increased moisture brings an extra risk of flash flooding, particularly since soil in many areas is already saturated due to recent rainfall.
Moisture and heavy rains will proceed the storm by several days, Benchley said. If wind speed increases, high surf could affect the island’s south and west-facing shores through the first and middle part of next week.
If a hurricane watch is issued, residents and visitors will have approximately 48 hours to prepare.
As of 5 p.m. Friday, Kilo was about 580 miles south-southeast of Honolulu, moving west-northwest at 14 mph. There is a very large cone of uncertainty for Kilo’s eventual track and strength, but it is expected to eventually turn north-northwest, potentially putting Kauai in the storm’s path. As the storm makes the turn, it is expected to slow down in speed, but build in strength and intensity as it sits over warm ocean waters.
On Thursday, Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation in anticipation of the storm’s arrival.
“Based upon scientific information and expertise available, Hawaii is in danger of a disaster occurrence of high winds, heavy rains, high surf, storm surge and flooding that threatens to cause extensive damage to private and public property,” the proclamation reads. “The danger is of such magnitude to warrant pre-emptive and protective action.”
By signing the proclamation, the governor activated the Major Disaster Fund set aside by the Legislature to provide needed assistance. The proclamation also allows easier access to emergency resources at the state and federal level, along with the ability to suspend certain laws as needed for emergency purposes.
Kauai County officials have been participating in video conference briefings with state and federal government officials, according to spokeswoman Sarah Blane. She said that the public may sign up for the county’s mass-notification system, Connect CTY, online at www.kauai.gov. Those who sign up can elect to receive severe weather alerts and public safety messages via phone, text and email.
Blaine Agena of Hanapepe started stockpiling storm-related supplies Thursday.
“This wasn’t so bad,” Agena said Friday. “The lines were pretty long at Costco, but then, they opened all the registers and it moved along. I needed some other things, like dog food, which they didn’t have at Costco, so I’m wrapping everything up at Walmart. It’s not so bad, yet.”
Aimee Acorda and her mother had other ideas.
“Storm?” Acorda asked. “No. This is for camping. We’re going camping, but if the storm comes, we can always use this for that.”
Requests for information about potential supply shortages were referred to Walmart’s corporate headquarters but The Garden Island did not receive a response by press deadline.
On the North Shore, Robert Prongay, owner of Pink’s Creamery in Hanalei, said he is ready.
“We have a ton of refrigeration so that is a huge concern of ours — we would lose all of our inventory if the power goes out,” he said.
But Prongay has a backup generator he purchased last year after Hurricane Iselle threatened the state. That storm lost power after hitting the Big Island.
For updates about Kilo, follow the NWS Central Pacific Hurricane Center page on Facebook, or visit the Hurricane Center website at www.prh.noaa.gov/cphc for the most up-to-date information.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center is also tracking an additional tropical storm named Loke, but that is not expected to cause problems for Hawaii.