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Hurricane season pau; islands are spared pilikia

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    courtesy photo Hurricane Henriette was in the Central Pacific from Aug. 3 to 11.

Another hurricane season came and went in the Central Pacific this year without unleashing destruction on the Hawaiian Islands.

The season was, however, twice as active as scientists initially predicted in May.

"We can predict it to the best of our ability, but it will throw (us) a curveball every now and again," Mike Can­tin, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Hono­­lulu, said Monday.

Before the season kicked off, NWS meteorologists predicted there would be a 70 percent chance of the Central Pacific having a below-average season (one to three cyclones), a 25 percent chance of having an average season (four to five) and just a 5 percent chance of having an above-normal season.

In total, six tropical cyclones entered the Central Pacific during the season, which began June 1 and ended Saturday — but Cantin cautioned that the number can be misleading.

"Those three systems that formed in the middle of August only were around for a combined total of (about four days)," he said. "They put us over our prediction, but they ended up being very weak systems that were far from land. … Although we were above average, those were weak systems overall."

Take away those three storms, and the NWS was right on the mark with its prediction of one to three cyclones.

Hurricane Flossie opened the season in July and sent many isle residents, especially on the eastern shores of Hawaii County, scrambling.

Days before making landfall as a tropical storm, Flossie was on track to be the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in the islands since Hurricane Iniki ravaged Kauai in 1992 and the first cyclone in recorded history to hit Hawaii island head-on. An overnight change in track and intensity, though, caused Flossie to be downgraded to a tropical depression that scientists deemed never officially hit land.

Maui wound up getting the brunt of Flossie’s fury, with fantastic lightning storms and power failures, heavy rainfall and the strongest sustained winds at 33 mph in Kahu­lui.

The overall duration of Flossie was from July 27 to 30.

After Flossie came:

» Tropical Storm Gil, Aug. 6-7.

» Hurricane Henriette, Aug. 3-11.

» Tropical Storm Pewa, Aug. 16-17.

» Tropical Storm Unala, Aug. 18-19.

» Tropical Depression 3C, Aug. 19-20.

CANTIN said the NWS based its prediction for the season on the fact that the Cental Pacific continues to experience near-average, or normal, sea temperatures. Warmer than average temperatures, or an El Nino weather pattern, are more favorable for storms to form, whereas cooler sea temperatures, known as a La Nina weather pattern, are not as favorable.

The past few years have seen low numbers of storms because an expected switch to an El Nino weather pattern from a La Nina weather pattern instead brought on neutral conditions that are expected to persist until at least next spring and possibly early summer.

The last time the Central Pacific experienced a true El Nino weather pattern was in 2009, Cantin said. That year three hurricanes, three tropical storms and one tropical depression entered the Central Pacific. That active season was followed by no cyclones in 2010 and one each in 2011 and 2012.

Cantin said sea temperatures this season were as predicted, but the atmosphere wound up being more favorable for cyclones to develop. Strong upper-level winds tend to break apart weather systems before they have a chance to directly affect the isles, but winds early on in the season were weaker than anticipated.

Although Flossie isn’t likely to be remembered for years to come, Cantin said the storm should still give people pause.

"Flossie was a reminder that systems can approach (Hawaii)," he said, adding that whether a particular hurricane season winds up being more or less active than predicted has no bearing on when the next disastrous storm will strike.

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