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Hurricanes in Hawaii? 4 Tips to Prepare for Potential Storms

With Harvey and Irma dominating the news headlines, and additional hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, many are asking, “What about Hawaii?”

While our hurricane season is from June through November, hurricanes are rarely occurring in Hawaii. The last time a Category 4 hurricane hit Hawaii was Iniki in 1992. Iwa hit Kauai in 1982 as a Category 1 hurricane. Honolulu (Waikiki) was spared in these instances. The eye of Iniki passed directly over the island of Kauai, causing six deaths and damaging or destroying thousands of homes on the island. A similar strike on Oahu is believed to be eight times worse, given the greater number of structures on the island.

Hurricanes form over the eastern Pacific Ocean. Since 1950, only four hurricanes have caused serious damage in Hawaii.

Even though hurricanes are rare, every year we experience a few “close calls” with hurricanes taking aim at Hawaii, putting our islands under hurricane watches as well as tropical storm warnings.

Even if there is no direct hit, heavy rains, flash floods, storm-force winds, and high waves are hazards not to be underestimated.

In August 2016, we had two back-to-back hurricane watches in the same week, which fortunately downgraded to a tropical storm and hit the southern tip of the Big Island. This is only the second time this island was impacted after tropical storm Iselle in 2014.

According to Dennis Hwang, faculty at the University of Hawaii Sea Grant, which is part of NOAA, these are the four key things residents should do to prepare for potential hurricanes:

1. Have Your Supplies Ready

New guidance calls for 14 days of food and water per person. Getting your supplies now is important as with the new guidance, shortages will occur even quicker when procrastinators attempt to gather their emergency supplies during a watch.

2. Know Your Evacuation Plan

It’s very important to know where to go during a hurricane or a tsunami.

3. Get Insured

Have hurricane insurance for replacement value, and flood insurance,  even if you’re not in a flood zone, it’s good to have if there is the slightest possibility or history of flooding.

4. Strengthen Your House

  • Hurricane clips (if don’t have them)
  • Window protection (not masking tape)
  • Other items (strengthen roof if reroof, fortify garage door, trim or remove trees, clear gutters)

Dennis Hwang combines his science and law background to concentrate on implementing science into decisions of the community so that hurricane, tsunami, flood, erosion, wind and earthquake impacts are mitigated. He authored the Hawai’i Coastal Hazard Mitigation Guidebook, which is used in the land use process in Hawai’i.  A similar version was produced for Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. He co-authored a handbook, and you can download a PDF here. It is now in its third edition and being produced for several states.

Be prepared and stay safe!

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