By Jeff King
Q: Riddle me this: What has three eyes and is very dangerous?
A: The Pacific Ocean. Hurricanes Julio and Iselle and Super Typhoon Genevieve each feature distinct eye walls as of 9 a.m. today.
While the seriousness of Mother Nature is playing out in epic fashion, forecasters, government agencies, residents and visitors are all focusing on one thing: Staying safe. The most urgent threat comes from Hurricane Iselle – now just 360 miles ESE of Kahului (245 miles ESE of Hilo), and heading our way at about 17 mph. That puts the center of Iselle over Hilo at around 11 p.m. tonight (HST) and just south of Maui at about 6 a.m., Friday.
However, these storms are big and winds generated by a Category 1 hurricane can maintain their speed and destructive strength upwards of 75 to 100 miles out from the center of the storm. That means things could get nasty on the Big Island by this afternoon around 5 p.m. – and very blustery over Maui County starting around 1 a.m. Friday.
This animated satellite sequence of Hurricane Iselle shows dense formation and an eye wall partially obscured. That could mean one of two things: Either the storm is gradually weakening, or that cloud tops are billowing upwards at such a rapid pace that the satellite photos can’t keep up with the development of the storm. Another thing to note is that there is no apparent shear around Iselle. That means that mid and upper level winds are not dismantling the storm – at least not yet.
Meanwhile, a few “clicks” to the east of Iselle, Hurricane Julio remains a Category 2 storm – with sustained winds in excess of 110 mph. Julio, forecasters say, will weaken to become a tropical storm as it passes north of the Big Island around sunrise this Sunday, passing north of Maui Sunday afternoon.
Light rains began early this morning around Hilo and a very impressive “anvil” cloud formed over the Auau Channel between Maui and Lana’i. That was around sunrise today – which also greeted the world with a magnitude 4.5 earthquake near Waimea on the Big Island. MauiWatch spotters reported feeling the temblor in Wailuku.
And finally, Super Typhoon Genevieve. She began as a tropical storm in the eastern Pacific, began to break apart in the Central Pacific, and has strengthened into a super typhoon that should play out over open ocean.