Living along the coast, and living in the continental U.S., for that matter, we sometimes forget that there is one part of our country vulnerable to Pacific hurricanes. California almost never sees a hit from a storm since the movement of tropical weather in the Pacific, as in the Atlantic, is east to west. But Hawaii is right smack in the middle of the Pacific, currently in the path of not one but two hurricanes, the first storms of that size that, if they were to hit, would be the first to reach Hawaii in 22 years.
In fact, there are four named storms in the Pacific at the moment and another promising area of weather just off the coast of Mexico. The increase in storms this year is likely the result of the El Niño event occurring in the southeastern Pacific. While the winds it generates tend to inhibit growth of storms across the Atlantic, it can destabilize the weather in the Pacific, causing active hurricane seasons.
And while Hawaii does lie right in the middle of what would seem to be hurricane alley, it has taken a direct hit from a hurricane on only two occasions since 1949 and taken a close brush from another. None of the storms have been greater than category 1 since the Pacific tends to be a much calmer place when it comes to tropical weather than the Atlantic, at least until storms get farther west and become typhoons. In fact, the cooler waters and drier air to the east of Hawaii help to insulate it from the bigger storms that often form to the west of the island chain.
Hurricane Iselle is expected to make landfall on the Big Island Thursday, followed by hits to Oahu and Maui late Thursday and into Friday, but then only as a tropical storm. Hurricane Julio, which could be downgraded to a tropical storm before nearing the islands, will likely trek just to the north and not make a direct hit.
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Though both of these are weak storms by hurricane standards, they can still dump a ton of rain on the region. Predictions range from between four and 16 inches of rain depending on the island, which would likely cause some fairly serious flooding. Fortunately, Hawaii won't have to deal with the strong winds that accompany big hurricanes, and clear skies should return by middle of next week.