Hawaii is preparing for two major storms this week, beginning with Hurricane Iselle, which is expected to weaken to a tropical storm by the time it arrives on Thursday. Hurricane Julio is expected to hit Saturday, again after weakening into a tropical storm.
Hawaii Public Radio's Bill Dorman tells our Newscast unit that residents and tourists are getting ready for the heavy rains, rough seas and 60 mph winds expected from the storms:
"School officials across Hawaii County and Maui County have already cancelled classes for Thursday.
"The same day, the National Weather Service says a flash flood warning will cover the entire island chain.
"That includes the most populous island of Oahu ... home to Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, and the tourist magnet of Waikiki Beach."
Hurricanes have struck the archipelago before, The Associated Press reports, but only rarely, and recent strikes have had little impact:
"Hawaii is a small target in the big ocean, so it just has to be really good timing and the conditions have to be right for us to get a direct hit," said Eric Lau, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
Hawaii has been directly hit by hurricanes only three times since 1950, though the region has had 147 tropical cyclones over that time. The last time Hawaii was hit with a tropical storm or hurricane was in 1992, when Hurricane Iniki killed six people and destroyed more than 1,400 homes in Kauai, Lau said.
"We've been lucky so far. So we just need to really take this threat seriously and make sure everybody is prepared," he said.
Weather Channel blogger Steve Lyons wrote in 2007 that the wind shear also helps the islands avoid tropical weather:
"The Tropical Upper Tropospheric Trough (called TUTT for short) rules the high levels of our weather atmosphere there and creates winds typically too fast for development of a hurricane and too fast for an approaching hurricane from the east to remain a hurricane. That is why quite a few remnant tropical circulations go by south, north, or occasionally through the islands, but rarely does a tropical storm or hurricane [reach them]."
Honolulu's Department of Emergency Management urges residents to have seven days' worth of supplies on hand.
"With Hawaii's remoteness it could be as long as a week before a full disaster relief operation can be initiated," the department says in a statement.
Officials also encouraged residents to vote early in the state's primary election, scheduled for Saturday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.