Hawaii’s Big Island Braces For Passage Of Category 4 Hurricane Hector

NHC/NOAA Imagery / NHCNOAA.gov

Hurricane Hector has been on the verge of becoming a Category 5 hurricane and is currently tracking south of the Big Island of Hawaii on a course that should limit the severity of any wind-induced damage. The system is still sitting east/southeast of the island, about 600 miles away, on a west/northwest course of 285 degrees and speed of 16 MPH based on imagery at NOAA. Hector is sitting with a well-defined eye and overall collected presentation. The islands are under a storm watch as a precaution, with a tropical storm advisory issued for the Big Island. There is the possibility of the island being on the receiving end of a brief window of tropical storm strength force winds of 39 MPH or greater; however, the island will feel the effects of the storm mainly via rip currents and high surf.

At this point in his lifespan, it would be surprising to see Hector bump up to a Category 5 hurricane based on cool ocean temperatures in his track and a low-pressure system slowly building over the North Pacific. Given those factors, and a building ridge to the north, Hector is likely to maintain intensity and track over the next 24 hours before beginning to weaken and prepare to go extra-tropical, which is within the working best track of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Hector
  NOAA/NWS Imagery / NHCNOAA.gov

What residents of the Big Island should be paying attention to over the next 24-48 hours is that Hector maintains a primarily westward track heading through the area it is currently in, which still has low vertical wind shear, toward dry air which will help the system begin to slowly dissipate over the course of the next week. If Hector deviates from the track and develops a wobble that nudges him slightly north of the predicted 150-mile distance between him and the island, there could be tropical storm force winds, which is why the area is under advisory.

Hurricane Hector

Hector’s feeder bands may produce some areas of heavily localized rain across the islands, and some flash flooding along east, south, or southeast-facing slopes. Some areas may also face tropical storm strength wind gusts, but those should not pose any threat to people, infrastructure, or livestock. The Puna and Kau districts of the Big Island should take extra precaution to prepare for the storm, according to Hawaii Now.

Over the past 24 hours, Hector experienced a sustained peak wind of 155 MPH, which was just shy of ticking over to Category 5 intensity. It was still enough to make Hector the strongest hurricane in the Central Pacific basin since 2006 when Loke passed through.