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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Wet winter gives way to hurricane season

 •  Map (opens in new window): One wet winter

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu weather forecasters confirm this past rainy season was one of the wettest in the past 30 years.

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Kevin Kodama, senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Hawai'i, said conditions seemed even soppier because of the stark contrast with the previous six years of drought. "Since 1997, it's been so dry," he said.

On O'ahu, nearly all rain gauges showed above-normal rainfall, he said, with the trans-Ko'olau Wilson Tunnel collecting more than 124 inches, or 171 percent of normal, from October 2003 to April of this year. Even generally dry Honolulu International Airport recorded 24 inches, or 155 percent of the normal rainfall.

Kodama said all islands saw above-normal rainfall.

Weather forecasters yesterday also said that Hawai'i can expect a "near average" hurricane season this year with four to five tropical storms in the Central Pacific. That's the official prediction from Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center at the National Weather Service office in Honolulu.

But, of course, being weather, it could change. Weyman said that forecast could change in July or August, when climate conditions may shift to either El Ni–o or La Ni–a patterns.

Historically, the warmer waters of El Ni–o come with a more active hurricane season, plus drought conditions during winter and high surf. La Ni–a's cooler equatorial waters tend to bring a less active hurricane season.

Weyman said present conditions — neither El Ni–o nor La Ni–a — will likely continue through July, but there's no consensus on what will happen after that.

The Pacific hurricane season officially begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. During last year's hurricane season, two tropical storms formed in the Central Pacific.

Forecasters say Hawai'i residents should always be prepared for a major storm. Hurricane preparedness information and survival kit contents are listed in the front pages of the telephone book.

"A hurricane will hit Hawai'i again in the future," Weyman said.

He just can't predict when.

Twelve years have passed since Hurricane 'Iniki devastated Kaua'i and parts of O'ahu, and that makes people complacent. Weyman said this often makes him feel like the boy who cried wolf.

On the subject of weather woes, all that rain doesn't mean that drought worries are over, said Rick Fontaine, a surface water specialist from the US. Geologic Survey, who tracks steam flow.

Fontaine said some March and April stream flows were higher than levels seen since the late 1980s. Still, he said, officials remain nervous about reservoir levels and are urging water conservation because ground-water levels take longer to respond to increases in rainfall following a drought.

"We have not corrected deficits that have occurred over a number of years," he said.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at 535-2429 or rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.