LIHUE — Seven tropical cyclones are predicted for the upcoming hurricane season that runs June 1 through Nov. 30.
“Forecasters are predicting near to above normal tropical cyclone activity,” said Chris Brenchley, of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency in a Honolulu press conference held on Thursday.
Normal activity is four or five (tropical cyclones) per season, he said.
Forecasters said there is about a 40 percent chance the season will be above normal, a 40 percent chance it will be normal and a 20 percent chance it will be below normal.
Brenchley explained the massive El Nino event that influenced this past, record-setting hurricane season is passing and a La Nina event is on the horizon. That means the waters along the equator are shifting from above normal temperatures toward normal and below normal temperatures.
Typically La Nina events bring on seasons with lower tropical cyclone activity. Brenchley said the general hurricane trends are pointing toward a slightly higher activity level.
“Conflicting signals are giving us a little uncertainty as to what 2016 has in store for us,” he said.
Last year’s hurricane season formed a record 15 tropical cyclones, starting with Tropical Storm Ella in July. There were also two tropical cyclones after the season ended. The last one, Hurricane Polly, formed the second week of January.
The previous record was 11 tropical storms in 1992 and then again in 1994.
“Last year nearly went off the chart,” Brenchley said. “We had expected an active season this time last year, but those expectations were exceeded.”
Though Hawaii escaped 15 tropical storms unscathed last season, weather experts and public safety officials warn against complacency.
“It only takes one cyclone to touch the state to result in serious impacts for our local region,” he said. “There are a lot of things you can do right now to prepare for a hurricane.”
He explained now is the time to do those household projects that will strengthen the structure of your home and clean up surrounding debris.
“We’ve experienced hurricanes in the not-so-distant past, and we will inevitably face them again,” Brenchley said.
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. said he and his administration share a sense of relief that a less active hurricane season has been predicted this year, but they are also advising preparation.
“As we all know here on Kauai, it only takes one natural disaster to cause major damage in our small community,” Carvalho said. “I strongly encourage everyone to prepare your homes and families for the upcoming hurricane season.”
Dry season prediction
May kicked off Hawaii’s dry season, which will run through September. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s planning predictions center is calling for above normal precipitation, mainly in the second half of the season.
However, that’s only for windward sides of the islands. For leeward sides, the story’s different.
“We’re concerned about this dry season,” said Kevin Kodama, senior service hydrologist with the Honolulu National Weather Service. “One of the concerns we have is the brush fire season is expected to be more active than normal.”
Kodama pointed out that in 2016, Hawaii has already had double the burn area than in all of 2015.
On Kauai, in 2015, 200 acres were scorched in Kokee in March, 100 acres were burned in Koloa in April, and 600 acres were blackened at Kaumakani in June.
Kodama said Hawaii started last year’s wet season, which runs October through April, with no abnormally dry areas in the state.
“That’s actually the first time in the history of the U.S. Drought Monitor, which started in 2000, with absolutely no dry areas starting,” Kodama said. “So we started the wet season in October as wet, but them January rolled around and it got very, very dry.”
Kodama said 17 locations across the state had the driest January on record.
Jessica Else, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.