East Hawaii News

Hurricane Season Sets Records

December 18, 2015, 3:51 PM HST
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This graphic shows all of the storms that entered the Central Pacific basin in 2015. None of them directly hit the Big Island. NOAA image.

This graphic shows all of the storms that entered the Central Pacific basin in 2015. None of them directly hit the Big Island. NOAA image.

The Big Island and the entire state were spared landfall from any tropical cyclone that entered the Central Pacific region, a feat considering the record amount of storms that formed and the number of close calls that ensued.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s hurricane season summary, released Friday, a total of 15 tropical cyclones entered the Central Pacific basin, the highest amount recorded in the last 35 years. The previous record was 11, tied back in 1992 and 1994.

During hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30 ever year, it is expected that 4-5 tropical cyclones make their way through the region. Forecasters expected this season to be busier than normal, due to a strong El Nino and warm ocean temperatures. The end result, however, exceeded expectations.

Of the storms recorded, five hurricanes were tracked during the month of August, shattering the record of two set previously. Three of those hurricanes were classified as “major,” being at Category 3 or above. During the previous month, three tropical storms entered the area, which broke the previous record of one.

Additionally, the first storm to arrive in the Central Pacific came earlier than ever. Ela became a tropical storm on July 9, eight days earlier the record of July 17, which was set last year when Wali entered Central Pacific waters.

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The last storm of the season was also unusually strong. Hurricane Olaf, which held maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, was in the Central Pacific basin from Oct. 20-26. It was the strongest hurricane on record at that late stage of the year.

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Impact to the Hawaiian Islands was minimal. Heavy rain and flash flooding were felt along the Big Island, Maui, and Oahu, most notably as Tropical Storm Nora approached the state. Both Hawai’i County and Maui County also dealt with high surf and coastal inundation along windward shores as other storms closed in.

This year’s busy hurricane season meant extra work for the United States Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, which flew 34 missions during the year, equaling a total of 586.7 hours in the air while doing surveillance on Ela, Guillermo, Hilda, Kilo, Ignacio, and Oho. That amounted to over half of the 1,141.4 total hours of missions done across the nation.

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