Ocean Safety: Hawaii Cyclone Season

The NOAA Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s official hurricane season is projecting up to eight tropical cyclones to enter the Central Pacific between June 1 and November 30 this year. That’s above the annual average of 4-5 cyclones per Hawaii hurricane season.

An active hurricane season means increased swell activity, particularly along southern Hawaii shores facing these weather systems. Ocean safety is key. Hurricanes in Hawaii are rare, but they are astonishingly powerful. During many Hawaii hurricane seasons, storms pass without the drama that often characterizes media coverage of severe weather events. 2018 was also a busy hurricane season. Hurricane Lane dumped more than 50 inches of rain across Hawaii in August (after being downgraded to a tropical storm).

Hurricanes and tropical cyclones usually pass far from the Aloha State, sparing us torrential rains and flash flooding and high winds. However, their energy can send powerful open ocean swells to our world-famous beaches. Warmer than normal sea temperatures fuel a busy cyclone season.

A hurricane from space. Courtesy NASA.

The placid waters of Waikiki and other Aloha State destinations can quickly become hazardous due to these swells. It may seem an idyllic day in paradise, with blue skies and agentle trade winds. But a tropical cyclone hundreds of miles away can still generate dangerous high surf. Hawaii visitors should always be alert and aware while enjoying Hawaii’s countless ocean activities.

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Cavalier visitors may scoff at truisms like “never turn your back on the ocean” or “talk to a lifeguard”, but these are wise words to follow. Too often, visitors don’t take heed until they’ve gotten into trouble in the water and needed a rescue or worse.

Hawaii’s summer months occur during hurricane season, with thousands thronging beaches across the state to celebrate holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day. On July 4th, 2018, Honolulu City & County Ocean Safety lifeguards conducted 450 rescues during a popular flotilla event in the waters off Waikiki Beach. Officials at the time noted that it was “tame” compared to the previous two years.

Cyclone season sees ocean conditions change quickly.

This goes to show that even Hawaii residents who are experienced in ocean activities can be caught unaware. A tropical cyclone event a thousand miles away can and will send dangerous conditions to Hawaii’s beaches. Hawaii’s lifeguards are considered the best in the world. Visitors are well advised to stick to beaches with lifeguards on duty, always. This becomes even more important during an active hurricane season in Hawaii.

Residents and visitors alike can do well to mind cyclone activity in the Central Pacific when making plans for ocean activities. It doesn’t take a hurricane or tropical storm to send wave heights and ocean conditions into the hazardous category.

We here at Hawaii Aloha Travel and Jeep Tours Hawaii closely monitor the conditions our visitors can expect while in Hawaii. Stay with us to stay abreast of the most recent weather and ocean events that may affect your Hawaii vacation. We’re the experts!