NOAA EXPECTS NEAR AVERAGE CENTRAL
PACIFIC HURRICANE SEASON;
May 19, 2003 — NOAA hurricane experts forecast two to three tropical cyclones are expected to occur within the central Pacific during the 2003 hurricane season. This is below the long term average of 4.5 tropical cyclones per season. (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of Hurricane Iniki taken Sept. 11, 1992. Please credit “NOAA.”)
Jim Weyman, director of the NOAA Central Pacific Hurricane Center, said the 2002 moderate El Niño episode is now nearly dissipated. “The outlook from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center indicates a cold event (La Niña) is much more likely to occur in sea surface temperatures in the tropical areas of the Pacific Ocean by this summer. This along with several other factors contributed to the forecast of below average number of tropical cyclones to affect the Central Pacific.”
The central Pacific covers an area north of the equator from 140 degree W to 180 degrees W or the International Dateline. The hurricane season for the central Pacific officially begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Normally, 4.5 tropical cyclones—one hurricane, two tropical storms, and one tropical depression—occur each year in the central Pacific.
Fewer hurricanes in a year do not necessarily mean a lesser threat of disaster. To emphasize this point, the theme for this year’s hurricane awareness week is “It Only Takes One—Are You Prepared?” Weyman said. “It is not only the number of systems expected that’s important, but the track these tropical cyclones take. If one were to directly hit one of the Hawaiian Islands, there could be near total devastation.”
Weyman said the islands are also vulnerable to tropical storms and depressions. A slow-moving tropical storm or even tropical depression could dump heavy rains on the Islands, causing flooding and landslides as well as some localized wind damage.
During the week of May 12, Hawaii weather and emergency officials conducted a realistic, state-wide hurricane drill, Makani Pahili, to exercise and test all of their equipment, procedures, plans and personnel in the event they are needed this year.
Weyman said, “In the event of a hurricane, public preparedness will mean the difference between a multitude of survivors or victims in Hawaii.”
Gov. Linda Lingle signed a proclamation making Hawaii a participant in the U.S. Hurricane Awareness Week (May 18-24), a collaboration between NOAA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and storm-vulnerable states to increase preparedness and safety among residents.
Hurricanes forming in the Pacific Ocean can devastate small island areas, such as Hawaii. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki, a powerful Category 4 storm, battered Hawaii and left $2.4 billion in damages. Iniki was responsible for five deaths on Kauai and one death on Oahu. The next hurricane forming in the central Pacific will be named Ioke.
“Ultimately, it is each person’s responsibility to be prepared for a hurricane,” said Weyman. “Everyone should have an action plan in the event that a hurricane strikes. Every home should have a survival kit and everyone should take action when advised by civil defense.” The NOAA Central Pacific Hurricane Center issues forecasts, watches and warnings for the Hawaiian Islands to notify the public of hurricanes and tropical storms:
A hurricane watch or tropical storm watch means the threat of hurricane or tropical storm conditions exists for designated islands within 36 hours. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or TV for the latest weather information.
A hurricane warning or tropical storm warning means hurricane or tropical storm conditions are expected to occur for designated islands within 24 hours. Continue to listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or TV for the latest weather information. Be prepared to evacuate if advised to do so by civil defense.
Another key source in Hawaii for preparedness information is the white pages of the county phone books, which list actions to take before, during and after natural disasters.
NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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