Residents and visitors in Hawaii are on alert as Major Hurricane Felicia, now packing maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, spins about well east of the island state. While a direct impact as a tropical cyclone isn’t likely, there could be indirect impacts to Hawaii, especially the Big Island of Hawaii, in about a week. Rated a category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, the storm is currently between Hawaii and Mexico over open waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The storm, described by the National Hurricane Center as “tiny but ferocious”, is located about 1,120 miles west southwest of the southern tip of Baja California and roughly 2,000 miles from the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. While it is still far away from Hawaii, it is getting the attention of local officials and media. State and local agencies in Hawaii are encouraging people to prepare for Felicia or any tropical cyclone threat that could present itself this season. “HIEMA is monitoring Hurricane Felicia, though it is still too early to tell what impact, if any, it will have on our islands,” said the state Emergency Management Agency in a social media post yesterday. The Honolulu Department of Emergency Management, responsible for Oahu Island, wrote on social media, “Hurricane Felicia, although quite far from the Hawaiian Islands, is a reminder that we are still early into the 2021 Hurricane Season and we must remain alert and prepared. ” Today’s “West Hawaii Today”, one of two newspapers published on the island of Hawaii, ran the hurricane as it’s front-page headline today.
Felicia is currently moving toward the west near 8 mph and the National Hurricane Center expects this general motion to continue today. A slight turn toward the west-northwest is expected tonight and Sunday, followed by a turn back toward the west late Sunday and Monday. Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 145 mph with higher gusts, making Felicia a strong category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. It would become a category 5 storm, the highest rated, if maximum sustained winds increased to more than 157 mph.
The National Hurricane Center says fluctuations in intensity are possible today, and slight weakening is forecast by the end of the weekend. Their current extended forecast calls for a faster rate of weakening by early next week. Global computer model forecasts suggest the storm will get close to Hawaii, but not impact it as a strong tropical cyclone at this time. However, moisture associated with the storm could bring the chance for flooding rains across portions of the state, especially Hawaii and Maui islands which will be closest to the storm.
While powerful, Felicia is a very small hurricane. Hurricane-force winds extend outward only 15 miles from the center while tropical-storm-force
winds extend outward up to 45 miles.