Story by Karen Iwamoto on 06/02/2017WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD Hawaii's hurricane season officially began on June 1, and U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii officials are urging the community to be prepared.
"The main thing we want to stress is making sure families are prepared, they have their emergency kits and they have a family plan in case of an emergency," said Francis Smith, emergency management CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiation, nuclear and high-yield explosives) officer for USAG-HI's Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
"Even though we're always being reminded to have an emergency kit ready, I would bet that more than 50 percent of people out there probably don't have one," Smith continued. "But you should have a kit with seven days worth of supplies food, water, medicine, etc.
"The reason for this is that Hawaii is so far from the mainland; we estimate it could take a week for supplies to reach us from the mainland if airports and (sea)ports were damaged (by a hurricane)."
He pointed out that having a kit ready ahead of time cuts down on last-minute supply runs to crowded stores that may no longer have what families need in stock.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's outlook for the 2017 season, which wraps up on Nov. 30, predicts a 70 percent chance of five to eight tropical cyclones.
Tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes are all considered tropical cyclones. An average hurricane season produces between four and five tropical cyclones, according to NOAA.
NOAA officials emphasized that the outlook is a general guide to the hurricane season and not an attempt to predict whether, or how many, hurricanes will impact Hawaii this season.
"This outlook reflects the possible transition to a weak El Nino during the hurricane season, along with near- or above-average ocean temperatures in the main hurricane formation region, and near- or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that area," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. "If El Nino develops, it may become strong enough to produce an above-normal season."
El Nino decreases the vertical wind shear over the tropical central Pacific, which favors the development of more and stronger tropical cyclones. El Nino also favors more westward-tracking storms from the eastern Pacific into the central Pacific, according to NOAA.
Although Hawaii has not been impacted by a major hurricane in recent years, it has seen increasingly active hurricane seasons.
In 2015, the Central Pacific Region saw 14 tropical cyclones, including eight hurricanes, according to NOAA. It was the most active hurricane season in the region since 1971.
"The 2017 hurricane season marks 25 years since Hurricane Iniki, which brought life-changing impacts that have lasted more than a generation," said Chris Brenchley, director of NOAA's Central Pacific Hurricane Center. "Considering the devastation we saw from Iniki, as well as the more recent impacts from Hurricane Iselle and Tropical Storm Darby, make sure you and your family are prepared for hurricane season.
"Become weather-ready by signing up for weather alerts, developing and practicing a family emergency plan and restocking your emergency kit before hurricane season begins."
In addition to staying informed, having an emergency supply kit and communicating with family members, the following steps are helpful in preparing for an emergency:
Fill vehicles with gas.
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to preserve food as long as possible in case of a power outage.
Charge cellphones and use them sparingly.
Fill bathtubs with water.
Tune in to weather forecasts.
Have a plan for pets.