As it does every year about this time, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center has issued its prediction for the upcoming hurricane season and it’s not good. Once again, we can look forward to a season of at least the normal number of storms, but quite possibly more.
In fact, the center says there is a 70 percent probability we may experience five to eight tropical cyclones (the catch-all term that includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) between now and November. A normal season is four or five.
And as you’ve been reminded in the pages of this newspaper in the last few days, 2017 is the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Iniki, which devastated Kauai on Sept. 11, 1992. Ironically, it was our island’s first 9/11.
Between 1992 and now, of course, no other hurricane has made landfall on Kauai. Not that a few haven’t tried. Hurricane Flossie nearly got us in 2013. Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Darby was supposed to run right over us last year, but veered away at the last minute. Before that, there was Iwa that caused a ruckus in 1982 and Dot in 1959.
Actually, it is rare for hurricanes to make landfall in Hawaii owing to what climate forecasters call the meteorological “sweet spot” we are in, blessed by air currents above us in which a fairly consistent high pressure feature largely immunizes all of the islands here from severe tropical cyclone events. It’s what creates the wonderful weather we usually experience. It also keeps us safe — pretty much.
Although the islands have been — and will be — battered by past and future hurricanes, the challenge for Kauai, more than anything, is the fight against complacency. I’ve only been coming to or living on Kauai for about 15 years. So my awareness of the Iniki tragedy is from the many people I know who lived through it and watching the skad of historic YouTube videos that depict the frightening devastation.
But each year, it seems, we all greet this coming hurricane season by observing that Kauai is overdue for the next Big One. Then, each year, it doesn’t show up. At least it hasn’t yet.
The highest number of named storms in Hawaii was in 2014, when there were 16 that threatened various parts of the state. There have been years when there have been no named storms in the Central Pacific and several — 1995, 2008 and 2010 through 2012 — when there was only one. But, as Chelsea Sakai at the Kauai Emergency Management Agency noted over the weekend, it only takes one.
It’s easy, then, to pay only lip service to the need to stockpile plywood at the side of the house, keep an adequate supply of emergency food and water always at the ready, check and recheck whether medical supplies are all current, fire up the generator to make sure it’s working, and all of the behaviors that we all know we should exhibit, but often don’t.
This year, there are two excellent preparedness events over the next couple of weeks. The Kauai Fire Department’s Community Emergency Response Team will hold one at the Princeville Community Center Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. The Kauai Emergency Management Agency will hold another one at the Hanapepe Public Library on June 8 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Although this time of year is when we should all be making concrete preparations, being Kauai and all, there will be a temptation, fanned by the pseudo-science fringe that seems to inhabit our island, to dust off and recycle a couple of absurd, completely discredited myths:
w That the federal government, primarily through a mysterious program called HAARP (which doesn’t even exist anymore), seeks to control the movements of hurricanes and aim them to hit or miss locations consistent with some dark political strategy.
w That mysterious forces behind the airplanes that supposedly spray chemtrails all over us are plotting to create hurricane disaster.
In both cases, of course, there is no real science — and even less real proof — that either conspiracy theory holds any water. A guy named Dane Wigington, who has a bogus website called GeoEngineeringwatch.com, is a key proponent. He swears they’re accurate because he claims to have once been a contractor in California and Arizona and installed solar panels for a time. Conveniently, he has never published any scientific papers or produced any credible proof of his rantings.
Here on Kauai, the soundly defeated former mayoral candidate, surfer and martial arts fighter Dustin Barca tells anyone who will listen that the government has it in for us. Barca was, for example, the one who spread a wild rumor a couple of years ago that a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion anti-submarine plane that was practicing touch-and-go landing at the airport in Lihue was actually spraying Kauai with some kind of chemicals.
Barca hadn’t found out that the P-3 is a very old plane infamous for engines that spew brown exhaust. Undeterred, Barca also insisted that the U.S. Air Force KC-135 aerial refueling tankers that are parked at the airport in Honolulu are also used for chemtrails spraying. As usual, proof is entirely lacking and the theory defies common sense.
We should not let these voices devoid of credibility keep us from remembering this time of year that the hurricane threat is real — possibly greater than usual in 2017. We can’t — or, at least, we shouldn’t — let anything deter us from checking and rechecking our hurricane preparedness, right down to being sure we all have enough flashlight batteries to last a month or so.
There are excellent checklist materials at the Kauai Emergency Management Agency website: http://www.kauai.gov/kema. KEMA is also responsible for the automated phone system that will call you with emergency weather alerts automatically if you just register your phone numbers. The service is free.
Allan Parachini is a former journalist and PR executive. He is a Kilauea resident.