Hurricane Felicia strengthened into a strong Major Category 3 storm overnight; while direct impacts to Hawaii aren’t expected anytime soon, residents there are being encouraged to prepare for it and any storm threat this hurricane season.
As of the last advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, the center of Hurricane Felicia was located near latitude 15.0 North, longitude 121.6 West, which puts it roughly 940 miles west southwest of the southern tip of the Baja of California. Major Hurricane Felicia is moving toward the west-southwest near 8 mph and this general motion is expected to continue today. The National Hurricane Center says a turn toward the west is forecast to occur by late tonight or early Saturday, with a westward motion expected to continue through the weekend and into early next week.
Maximum sustained winds have near 125 mph with higher gusts, making Felicia a strong category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The National Hurricane Center says some additional strengthening is possible today, and Felicia could become a category 4 hurricane later today. The estimated minimum central pressure is 962 mb or 28.41″.
Felicia remains a relatively small tropical cyclone. Hurricane-force winds extend outward only about 25 miles from the center while tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles.
The official forecast track brings the storm west with time, inching closer to Hawaii. The National Hurricane Center believes the storm will weaken with time, going from Major Hurricane to regular hurricane status this weekend and weakening to a tropical storm by early next week. Most computer forecast model guidance suggests Felicia will remain south of Hawaii, although some models do bring the system closer to the Big Island and Maui. Even if the storm passes well to the south of Hawaii in a weakened state, it could send moisture north to the islands which could create flood conditions there even with the storm itself being a total miss.
With the storm far away and not an immediate threat to Hawaii yet, 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. 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. ”
Any impacts, direct or indirect, to Hawaii would likely occur more than a week away from now.