The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida and the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, Hawaii are both closely monitoring fresh tropical threats that are blossoming in the Central and Eastern Pacific Basins …all against the backdrop of a growing death toll from a recent severe fire weather event on the island of Maui. Indirect and direct impacts to Hawaii are possible in the coming days and weeks as these systems travel in the general direction of Hawaii.
The islands of Maui and Hawaii suffered a significant fire weather event last week in which high winds and low humidity in an anomalously dry air mass conspired to create the perfect storm of flames. While fires roared through the communities of Kohala Ranch, Waimea, and Mauna Kea Beach Resort on the Big Island, it wasn’t until fires broke out on Maui that they became especially destructive and deadly.
Maui County told reporters today that the number of confirmed deaths remain at 99, with four victims positively identified, up from the three the county reported yesterday. Hawaii Governor Josh Green told reporters yesterday that he expects the number to at least double in the coming days. A 90-member search team is combing through the affected area in and around the town of Lahaina which was nearly entirely destroyed by fire that ripped through it during strong winds on Tuesday.
The wildfire is the deadliest in the U.S. in more than 100 years.
While Maui continues to recover and the Big Island of Hawaii evaluates the damage they had there, additional tropical cyclones loom in the Pacific.
The closest is Tropical Storm Greg, a 50-mph tropical storm heading west well south of Hawaii. The storm should pass to the south of Hawaii in the coming days with little consequence. And unlike Hurricane Dora’s passage which was met with a very strong high pressure system to its north, there shouldn’t be a significant uptick with trade winds around the Aloha State.
The next storm which could be of consequence is Hurricane Fernanda. Once a major hurricane, Fernanda is now a 90 mph hurricane and is expected to weaken further as it moves west to Hawaii. While it isn’t expected to hit the islands as a tropical cyclone, is remnant moisture is, with the possibility of soaking rains possible as soon as Sunday or Monday. Rains could help relieve drought conditions in Hawaii and saturate plant matter to reduce wildfire risk. But heavy rains could also hamper recovery operations on Maui which will last many months if not longer. Heavy rains across burn scars could also create flood problems, with run-off of burned-off materials into watersheds or the ocean possible.
Beyond Fernanda is another area the National Hurricane Center is monitoring for possible development. In their latest Tropical Outlook, the National Hurricane Center says there is a 90% chance of the disturbance becoming a tropical cyclone in the coming days. How big it becomes and where it goes remain unknown, but in the long term, it could be another system Hawaii may need to watch as the 2023 Hurricane Season continues.