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Flossie's strike marks first for Big Isle

Weak wind shear and deep moisture preserve the storm's threat of direct impact

By Sarah Zoellick

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 09:57 a.m. HST, Jul 29, 2013


Tropical Storm Flossie will likely be the first cyclone in recorded history to hit Hawaii island head-on, a National Weather Service meteorologist said Sunday.

It also on track to be the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in the islands since Hurricane Iniki ravaged Kauai in 1992.

"We've had some close calls that have come by since Iniki … (but) this is the first time in quite a while that we've seen a direct threat from a land-falling tropical cyclone, in this case a tropical storm," NWS warning coordination meteorologist Michael Cantin said.

Forecasters at first thought Flossie might drop in strength to a tropical depression before it hit the isles, but Cantin said Sunday that a combination of deep moisture feeding into the circulation of the storm and a spreading, or ventilation, of air above it unexpectedly helped it overcome cooler waters and gain steam Saturday night.

Weak wind shear, which usually is responsible for breaking up storms before they hit the isles, also helped keep Flossie on course to hit Hawaii as a tropical storm.

"It kind of goes to show you that we typically on average see that shear out there, but in instances when it's not there we can have things (happen) that we haven't seen in quite a while," Cantin said.

Cantin said remnants of systems have occasionally affected the isles since Iniki, such as Tropical Storm Paul in 2000, but that Hawaii's usual buffer of cooler water and wind shear have kept the state relatively safe for more than 20 years.

"It wasn't even a tropical cyclone anymore, but it provided just enough moisture and then gave us some heavy rains," Cantin said of Paul.

Cantin said Hurricane Feli­cia in 2009, which at its peak strength was a category 4 hurricane, looked similar to this year's Tropical Storm Flossie as it came from the east but that "as it approached it just fizzled right out off to our east."

He added, "It was a stronger system, came right at us, a shear blew it apart and then it weakened very, very rapidly. We didn't get much of an impact out of it."

Hurricane Flossie in 2007 — the most recent to carry this year's moniker for the letter F — came in from more of a southern track but also fizzled out southeast of Hawaii island, he said.

"As they approached the state, the winds — the strong winds at the top of the system — tipped the circulation over, blew off the top, and then the systems (died) rapidly," Cantin said of the two storms. "We haven't seen that shear with this version of Flossie in 2013, so that's been the big difference, allowing it to hold its strength as it gets closer."

Cantin said it's hard to tell how the rest of the 2013 hurricane season will play out but that forecasters still expect it to yield below-average numbers. The season started June 1 and runs through November.

Hurricane Iniki hit in September, and Hurricane Iwa, which struck 10 years earlier in 1982, hit the isles in November. Both made landfall during El Niño years, when sea surface temperatures are warmer than usual.

The Central Pacific continues to exhibit neutral conditions, which means the sea temperatures are near average — not warmer or cooler than normal.

In May the National Weather Service predicted a 70 percent chance of a below-average season in the Central Pacific, a 25 percent chance of a normal season and just a 5 percent chance of an above-average season, due to the ENSO neutral conditions.

The average season sees about four to five cyclones, but Cantin said this year between one and three tropical cyclones could enter the Central Pacific basin. Flossie is the first.






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HLOEWEN wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on July 29,2013 | 02:33AM
Morimoto wrote:
Yeah, we'll be sure to carry our umbrellas when we go outside and anyone under 100 lbs needs to hold onto someone else or else risk being blown away by those fierce 35 mph winds.
on July 29,2013 | 10:59AM
allie wrote:
It missed the Big Island actually.
on July 29,2013 | 12:12PM
Scottymac wrote:
Everybody get ready.
on July 29,2013 | 03:01AM
palani wrote:
Be prepared, but don't overreact to the media hype. It's a storm, not a hurricane. As KHNL's newest weather forecaster Jenn might say, it's going to be windy so there will be a lot of wind, and it's going to rain, so it will be wet, and, like I said, it will be windy and rainy, so there will be rain and wind.
on July 29,2013 | 05:03AM
allie wrote:
yup
on July 29,2013 | 12:13PM
loquaciousone wrote:
So if Flossie hits we can't use the "hurricane" fund because now they want to call them cyclones?
on July 29,2013 | 06:43AM
glick wrote:
Good one, LOL. The State may then set up a Cyclone Fund "sucking" more insurance premiums from us. Just got through paying a $1580 hurricane bill. I hope that money stays where it should belong!
on July 29,2013 | 07:23AM
cartwright wrote:
The hype around every weather system is numbing folks. No news days, I guess. "Flossie's strike marks first for Big Isle" Look at this map and see how the few we get mostly fizzle in front of Mauna Loa as this one does right now. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Hawaii_hurricane_tracks.png
on July 29,2013 | 09:59AM
Morimoto wrote:
There's nothing else going on in Hawaii the news channels have to fill their news with something. I have a feeling this will be no worse than a typical winter storm.
on July 29,2013 | 11:01AM
Poplm wrote:
The hysteria about flopsie is reminessent of tidal wave hype. Looks like over reaction has become the norm
on July 29,2013 | 07:14PM
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