The entire state of Hawaii was in a complete frenzy this weekend, to prepare for potential damage associated with Hawaii Hurricane Douglas. As it turns out, most gratefully, the hurricane did not cause damage to Hawaii, and the potential for severe winds, flooding, and rain never materialized whatsoever. What did happen, was the extraordinary worry associated with planning for a major hurricane that might have struck Hawaii. And some huge expenses, both personally, and at Hawaiian Airlines.
What didn’t seem to make sense.
Yesterday afternoon, we started tracking the storm via NOAA radar as it passed the Big Island, Maui, Molokai, and Oahu. We were struck by seeing the storm veer north but the most dangerous energy was situated on the north side of the storm itself, while the islands were to its south. As the storm finally moved north then west of Oahu, we watched it move much further north and away from Kauai. All the while NOAA was saying there was a hurricane warning in effect. Then too, why last night were NOAA meteorologists making so many excuses about the forecast that they have predicted but that had not materialized. This all struck us as very odd, and somewhat concerning.
Why was Hurricane Douglas forecast so different than the actual storm?
No one can predict mother nature and that can’t be more true than when dealing with hurricanes. Looking back historically, however, we can see the hurricanes that have caused damage in Hawaii since the beginning of modern-day forecasting and tracking. None of them caused significant damage in Hawaii when they approached from the direction of yesterday’s Hurricane Douglas.
Only one of the prior storms on such an approach pattern, Hurricane Hiki, 70 years ago, did any damage to Hawaii. We’re anything but meteorologists, but it appears that by their very nature hurricanes coming on the north side of the islands have their power located in the north and west quadrants, which is not conducive to damaging the islands even when approaching at very close distances. That in spite of the fact that yesterday’s storm was closer to the islands than was Hiki.
That was very clear to us watching here, as the storm passed over Oahu and then Kauai last evening. On the other hand, hurricanes that approach from the south have caused the most damage and also have the most energy potential in their northern quadrant, which puts the greatest potential danger closer to the Hawaiian islands.
Hurricane tracking in Hawaii – 70 years starting with Hurricane Hiki.
Thankfully, hurricanes here remain largely rare events. In modern hurricane tracking, Hurricane Hiki (track pictured above) was the first hurricane in Hawaii waters. That was in 1950 and it remains one of the wettest storms ever recorded in the US, following Hawaii Hurricane Lane (2018) and Hurricane Harvey (2017). While Hiki didn’t strike Hawaii directly, rain of 52 inches was recorded on Kauai and the Waimea River overflowed.
Since then, Hurricane Nina produced severe winds on Oahu in 1957, Hurricane Dot caused damage to Kauai in 1959, Estelle produced flooding and high surf on three islands in 1986, Iwa struck Kauai in 1982, creating a quarter billion in damage, followed 10 years later by Hurricane Iniki, which caused 3.1 billion in damage mostly to Kauai.
Hurricane tracking has been significantly upgraded over the years, starting with the Tiros 1 weather satellite which was launched in 1960. It still, however, has a very long way to go, based on what we experienced this past weekend.
We asked NOAA directly about their radar system on Kauai. We were told that it was nearly 30 years old, and for the most part only showed storms from the south.
Thus, last night NOAA acknowledged again that the storm’s radar tracking would become unavailable. Seriously? We should also mention that NOAA is still using Flash for its radar, and while they plan to change it, for now, only browsers with Flash can access the four Hawaii radar locations located on the Big Island (2), Molokai and Kauai.
Hawaiian Airlines moved 54 of its aircraft from Honolulu.
Hawaiian canceled all flights yesterday. They also moved their interisland B717 fleet (20 aircraft in total) from Honolulu to Kona to be out of harm’s way. Some of those aircraft, however, were kept in closed hangars in Honolulu. The 20 aircraft fleet of A330 wide-bodies was ferried to the west coast, as was the 18 aircraft fleet of A321 narrow-body planes.
We can’t accurately estimate how much this mess cost Hawaiian, but we’ll throw out a few numbers just for discussion purposes. Some of you may be able to help clarify the expense further. The nominal cost to operate the wide-body A330 fleet, according to planestats.com is in the range of $8,000 per hour. The cost to operate the narrow-body A321 fleet may be in the range of $5,000 per hour. That doesn’t include a plethora of additional expenses Hawaiian incurred to get the currently out of service planes ready. Plus landing fees, storage fees, etc. We’d guesstimate their cost for yesterday at no less than $5,000,000.
Sound off please. Thanks in advance for your comments!
The lead photo is of 2018 Hurricane Lane. Douglas photo courtesy Weather. com.