By Jeff King
Terms like “rare,” “unprecedented,” “freakish” and “scary” are being tossed about around the globe as the entire world watches the skies over Hawai’i. Not since Hurricane Iniki in 1992 has Hawai’i weather so captured the world’s curiosity. And not since the mid-1800s has a hurricane directly hit the island of Maui.
Now all of those facts are making headlines on TV, social media and pretty much everywhere. In terms of urgency, Hurricane Iselle is the biggest headache. A Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds faster than 74 miles per hour, Iselle is expected to weaken only slightly – and arrive tomorrow evening in Hilo as a Tropical Storm – with sustained winds just under that 74 mph threshold. In the image you see, Hurricane Genevieve has regained a great deal of strength as she treks westward away from Hawai’i. What isn’t visible in this image is Hurricane Julio – a strong system that, too, is expected to be “only” a tropical storm when he reaches our waters sometime on Monday.
Click here to watch the animated satellite sequence of Genevieve and Iselle, as well as the leading edge of Julio in the later frames. Forecasters say we on Maui should expect the first rush of tropical force winds around 9 p.m. Thursday. The fury of that storm is expected to last about eight hours before moving on. During that time, power outages are likely, localized flooding and rainfall amounts of 5-15 inches are possible. During that time, your family’s disaster plan will be tested. Enough food, clean water, candles and/or flashlights? Now is the time to check and restock if necessary.
Weather experts caution us to not be fooled by a sense of relief if the storm turns southward while crossing the state. Keep in mind that – north of the equator, the upper left quadrant of a hurricane or tropical storm is where the winds are the fastest and damage is most likely. If Hurricane Julio follows the forecast track, he will gently curve northward upon arrival on the Big Island. It will still be a very powerful tropical storm and the “double whammy” comes in the fact that Iselle’s copious rainfall will likely leave a saturated island group less than ideally suited to handle more downpours from Julio.
The good news in all of this is that agencies, media and the coconut wireless have been ginning out volumes of information, warnings, tips and advice in advance of the storm so few of us should find ourselves unprepared. The bad news is that these are very powerful storms – and they will stretch our infrastructure to the limits of endurance and preparation. There is only so much that can be done to make ready.
We at Maui TV News wish you and your loved ones safety, peace and plenty. We will do our best to continue to bring you the latest images, forecasts and warnings as we all experience this historical weather event together.