While the destruction from the Kilauea Volcano continues on Hawaii’s Big Island, eyes are on another potential natural disaster in the tropical Pacific. For the last several days, the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida has been tracking a disturbance in the eastern Pacific approaching the central Pacific. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC), which is responsible for tracking tropical cyclones between 140W and 180W, is now keeping a close eye on the disturbance that they now expect to become a tropical cyclone.
The disturbance consisting of showers and thunderstorms associated with an area of low pressure is located about 1,325 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii. According to the CPHC which is based in Honolulu, Hawaii, environmental conditions appear conducive for the development of a tropical depression during the next day or two. In their last tropical update, the CPHC believes there’s a high 70% chance that a tropical cyclone will form here within the next 48 hours as the system moves west into the Central Pacific basin.
Upper level winds are forecast to increase over this system by mid-week, which could inhibit its growth. It’s also possible those same upper level winds will help steer this system south of Hawaii. The American GFS computer forecast model suggests the center of this system will stay south of Hawaii, but it could help bring moisture to the Big Island over time. With incredible amounts of heat rising from the volcanic eruption and expansive lava flow field there, any atmospheric disturbances and moisture sources passing through the islands could create extremely heavy, life-threatening flash flooding in portions of the disaster area.
Whether or not this storm threatens Hawaii directly or indirectly, it is important that people, especially on the Big Island, have a Hurricane Action Plan in order sooner rather than later. Due to ongoing lava flows and frequent strong earthquakes, many roads are closed or cut-off. The electrical grid is already impaired due to the volcano and any inclement weather could put additional strains on it. Because there’s an ongoing natural disaster on the Big Island, people should factor volcanoes, earthquakes, and the hazards they bring into their hurricane season planning. Additional hazards of pele’s hair, toxic laze plumes, and roads compromised by earthquake activity should be factored into disaster planning.
Should the tropical cyclone form within the territory monitored by the CPHC, the storm would be given a Hawaiian name. Unlike the names lists for the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic hurricane basins, central Pacific storm names are picked from a rotating list of names. The next name to be used is Walaka.