Monday, August 31, 2009

Tired of hearing about swine flu? The other flu, avian, can be much worse

The threat of swine H1N1 flu is expected to increase as we move into flu season later this year, but swine flu while readily transmitted, doesn't make most people too sick.

The opposite appears to be true with another virus: avian H5N1, which isn't transmitted too readily to humans, but is fatal it 60 percent of the people who get it.

It's not yet in the United States, but has been identified in much of the rest of the world. And over time, it is adopting more and more hosts. If it changes to readily pass from human to human, it could be a far worse epidemic than swine.

Here are some basic facts, from the Centers for Disease Control.

Most people who get this avian flu get it from poultry—often ducks and geese, but also swans and chickens. It rarely is transmitted human to human in its current form.

Few humans have immunity to it.

“If H5N1 viruses gain the ability for efficient and sustained transmission among humans, an influenza pandemic could result, with potentially high rates of illness and death worldwide,” CDC says.

The strain is resistant to two of the four major antiviral drugs. There are no vaccines.

It has shown up in cats, dogs and zoo animals, suggesting it is gaining a wider range of hosts. “Avian influenza A (H5N1) virus strains that emerged in Asia in 2003 continue to evolve and may adapt so that other mammals may be susceptible to infection as well.”

One caution for travelers, particularly in Asia: Stay out of poultry markets.

This flu was first identified in geese in China's Guangdong Province in 1996. The first human cases appeared in Hong Kong the next year.

In 2003, zoo leopards and tigers in Thailand died after being fed chickens. The next year, a Thailand cat got it after eating a pigeon. The disease has since been identified in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Cambodia. Malaysia, Laos.

It was found in Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan in migratory birds in 2005, and then began moving into Europe, often in migratory birds like ducks and swans.

Cases in humans remain fairly rare, but there are intriguing family clusters, in which multiple members of the same family get the disease. Are they getting it from each other? Is it because of a genetic predisposition to infectability? That's not yet clear.

As of August 31, 2009, the World Health Organization reported 440 cases globally, of which 262 were fatal.

Most of the deaths have been in Indonesia and Vietnam, but Egypt, Thailand and China are also hot spots.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hilda jogs south, breathe easier

Tropical Storm Hilda jogged southward, away from the Islands, in the last 24 hours, and although it is strengthening, even the most widely diverging forecasts keep it away from the Islands.

(Image: The track of Tropical Storm Hilda in recent days shows the jog to the south in recent hours. The Big Island is displayed in upper left. Sourced: NOAA.)

Although the storm, now less than 500 miles from Hilo, is expected to take a slightly northward curve starting tomorrow, Thursday, it is now likely far enough south that the National Weather Service figures it will remain well away from the Islands.

Translation: We may get some south swell, but little wind from Hilda.

The current route takes it across Johnston Atoll on Monday, but forecasts now don't anticipate Hilda will ever reach hurricane strength. Johnston, now uninhabited, should not be endangered by the storm.

That's still not to say Hilda couldn't change direction and bite us. Hurricane Iwa in 1982 swept northward from the southwest to slam Kaua'i.

But forecasters don't anticipate that will happen.

In what is turning out to be a very active hurricane season, Hawai'i may dodge another bullet.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hurricane-to-be Hilda and 'opihi picking: Don't turn your back

Hawaii media cheerily announced this morning that Hurricane-to-be Hilda is unlikely to impact the Hawaiian Islands.

That, of course, is so misleading that it's scary.

(Image: The National Weather Service's Mariner's 1-2-3 rule for Tropical Storm Hilda. Source: NOAA.)

First, the Islands certainly won't avoid pounding hurricane-generated surf on southern shores. Might not be as big as surf from some other hurricanes, but there will be surf.

Second, there is a chance the Islands will feel some wind if the the storm center tracks along the northern edge of its forecast path.

Hurricanes are often depicted as dots on a map, representing the center of the storm.

But these cyclones are major features on the surface of the planet, hundreds of miles wide, spreading swaths of destruction along their paths. And in the Northern Hemisphere (that's us) the winds are stronger and extend farther out on the right side of their path—in the case of Hilda, the northern side.

The National Weather Service's favored estimate has its center passing several hundred miles to the south of the main Hawaiian Islands. If it stays down there, there will be some accuracy to the Star-Bulletin's “at this point it is not expected to have much impact on Hawaii’s weather,” and The Advertiser's “Isles unlikely to feel Hilda's passing.”

The news reports might be right, but would you bet your house on that?

This is a strengthening tropical cyclone, running parallel to the island chain, at this writing about 525 miles from Hilo, and moving at more than 200 miles a day. Right now, tropical storm force winds cover a swath 150 miles wide, and that will increase as it reaches hurricane strength sometime Thursday.

Some sailors—cautious for good reason; their lives and their vessels are at risk—use what's called the Mariner's 1-2-3 Rule. They take the forecast storm center positions and apply a 100-mile circle of possible error at 24 hours out, then 200 miles at 48 hours, and 300 miles at 72 hours. Then they push the circles farther to reflect how far tropical storm force winds extend. Tropical storm winds are 39 miles an hour and more.

If you apply the Mariner's 1-2-3 rule to Hilda, the southern Big Island is within the zone. See the image above.

Media reports unfortunately often shuttle between panic and calming reassurance. The best indications are that Tropical Storm Hilda will remain far enough south to have minimal impacts, but Hawai'i residents need to heed the lesson of 'opihi pickers—go about your business, but don't turn your back to the ocean.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu hops to turkeys; threat not clear

Just when you thought it was safe to get a little sniffle, the swine flu virus has taken another potentially scary turn.

This bug known as H1N1, which has pieces of human, bird and pig flu in its genetic makeup, and which jumped earlier this year from hogs to humans, has now jumped again into birds.

In this case turkeys—specifically turkeys at a commercial turkey operation in Chile.

(Image: A Centers for Disease Control map shows Hawai'i has "regional" H1N1 flu, along with the southwestern states and the southeast. Only Alaska and Maine, with "widespread" flu, rank higher. Credit: CDC.)

Just what this means is not yet clear, and it might not be trouble, but it could be a step toward something bad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are monitoring.

Meanwhile, the swine flu virus we're familiar with has continued to spread. It is in all parts of the United States, and 522 people have died—mostly people with other underlying health issues that became fatal when the flu virus was added to them.

This flu has comparatively mild symptoms, but it spreads more readily than normal seasonal flu. One of its interesting characteristics is that it is still around in August, when flu is comparatively rare.

“Most state health officials are reporting local or sporadic influenza activity. Two states are reporting widespread influenza activity at this time. Any reports of widespread influenza activity in August are very unusual,” says the CDC.

Most of the people who catch the flu tend to be younger, suggesting some previous flu bug provided older humans with some level of resistance. And most people who do get the flu are over it in a week.

In the swine-to-turkey story, the infected turkeys don't suffer serious symptoms, either.

International health officials can't seem to decide whether this transmittal to birds is curious or ominous. In the reporting, you get a little of both.

There are a few citations that express fear for a “superflu” which spreads as easily as H1N1 swine flu, but is also more frequently fatal. But while that has always been a possibility, there is no evidence that there's a new bug like that now.

An Associated Press story included this cautious note: "What the turkeys have is the human virus — there is no mutation at all," Deputy Health Minister Jeannette Vega told Chile's Radio Cooperativa on Friday.

Stay tuned.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Plastics are forever, but a forever changing threat

Plastic lasts a long time, but new research indicates that in the ocean, it changes form and can become even more of a threat to marine life with time.

A team of researchers reported that plastics break down comparatively quickly at sea—but even as they change appearance, they remain or become even more dangerous to marine life.

(Image: Hawai'i residents know that tons of plastic debris washes up on our beaches, but the rest of the North Pacific is also a target for this marine debris. Here, a Japanese boy stands by a huge chunk of Styrofoam. Katsuhiko Saido photo.)

Larger plastic objects can be a choking hazard to sea creatures. An example is a plastic shopping bag mistaken by a sea turtle for a jellyfish.

Smaller pieces—toothbrushes, bottle caps, cigarette lighters—can kill young seabirds like Laysan albatrosses, whose bellies are so full of plastic trash that they can't eat real food. At the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands rookeries, you find their dried up bodies decomposing, with fist-sized clutches of plastic debris where there bellies were.

But as these pieces pf [plastic crack and break up into smaller and smaller pieces over time, they release man-made chemicals into the ocean. These chemicals can be even more hazardous to marine life than the larger pieces, said Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University in Japan.

“Plastics in daily use are generally assumed to be quite stable,” said study lead researcher Katsuhiko Saido, speaking at an American Chemical Society meeting in Washington. “We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future.”

His team studied decomposing polystyrene plastics in a lab, and were able to measure the production of a range of chemical compounds. The decomposition occurs even in cool ocean waters and does not require high heat.

“When the study team was able to degrade the plastic, it discovered that three new compounds not found in nature formed. They are styrene monomer (SM), styrene dimer (SD) and styrene trimer (ST). SM is a known carcinogen and SD and ST are suspected in causing cancer,” said the American Chemical Society release on the report.

Other stories on this research here and here.

Here is the American Chemical Society release on the work.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Transplanting corals a maturing technology

It turns out corals can be transplanted, just like garden plants.

(Image: The latest major coral transplanting effort in Hawai'i followed the grounding off Honolulu Harbor of the USS Port Royal in February 2009. Credit: Navy.)

This is a little of an open secret. Aquarium aficionados have known for a long time that they could crowbar a chunk of live coral from the wild and grow it in their salt-water containers.

But increasingly, the trend is going the other way. And it's a major conservation story.

Florida students a couple of years ago were able to grow threatened staghorn corals in captivity and transplant them into the wild.

Those corals are still doing well.

Early coral transplanting research was done at ship grounding sites in the Florida keys. And some of the seminal work in this field has been done in Hawai'i.

In the mid-90s, when a new small boat harbor threatened to destroy corals at Kawaihae on the Big Island, a project led by Paul Jokiel rescued some of those corals and transplanted them to 10 other locations. They survived well.

When coral growth threatened to interfere with marine traffic in the boat channel leading to Coconut Island in Kane'ohe Bay, rice and finger corals were transplanted out of the boat channel leading, and successfully transplanted to locations nearby.

By 2003 it was an established enough technique that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was developing a system to require coral transplanting as a means of dealing with damage to the environment.

The technology is pretty basic. It involves glue and wire to stabilize transplanted coral heads into their new locations and simply letting them grow. Sometimes the glue is hydraulic cement and sometimes the wire is plastic, and occasionally some bolts and screws are involved, but the theory is elegantly simple.

Like transplanting a koa tree in a forest: stick it in an appropriate location where it ought to do well, make sure it's secure, and watch it grow.

When the Cape Flattery went aground off Barbers Point in 2005, teams quickly began collecting the busted corals before they had rolled around so much their coral colonies were killed, and began sticking back to the ocean floor.

And when the Navy warship USS Port Royal went aground off Honolulu in February this year, crushing a large field of corals off Honolulu Airport, it took a little while to get started, but the concept was the same. Thousands of corals were reattached to the substrate before the first big south swell came in to halt work.

It would seem that an issue now is to shorten the time before restoration starts. When there's a ship grounding or other coral damage incident, the coral restoration teams ought to be on site and working the moment it's safe to do so.

The reason for quick action is simple. Ships ground in shallow water, where there are both corals and waves. Broken corals rolled around in the surf for a few days are quickly converted from living colonies into chunks of dead, white rock.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Missing in the Hawaii energy equation: tide power

The missing link in Hawai'i energy research may be tidal power.

In the Islands, besides the various fossil fuel plants, there is hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, ocean thermal, and even wave power in either utility scale or experimental operation.

(Image: OpenHydro's system has enclosed blades and is designed to be sunk onto the sea floor without the need for drilling. Credit:

In a candidate forum a few months ago, Kauai Island Utility Co-op board member Stu Burley argued for an ocean current power system in the channel between Kaua'i and Ni'ihau.

Nobody got up and cheered that news, but ocean currents are getting increasing interest outside Hawai'i.

Across the pond, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) , is actively studying what it calls in-stream energy or hydrokinetic energy. The center is a joint project of Oregon State and the University of Washington, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. They split the business this way: Oregon State works on wave energy, while UWash works with tidal systems.

The tidal work is focused on the tricky waters of Puget Sound, where tides whip around the various islands and rocks. The university researchers plan to install three actual systems on the ocean floor within the next two years.

The power will be purchased by the Snohomish County Public Utility District.

The technology of tidal energy is young enough that there are no standard “looks” to the systems. They're still in flux, ranging from bizarre spider-like windmill knockoffs to squat, hefty systems whose blades are enclosed to protect marine life.

The British are doing a great deal of work on tidal energy.

The theory is basically this: The tides are steady, predictable, and in certain locations can drive water at significant speeds. They generally flow in, and then out, twice a day, so a tide system needs to be able to turn itself around to face the oncoming flow—or it needs to be able to produce power with water flowing through it either forward or backward.

Using tidal energy isn't new. Tide were used to turn waterwheels hundreds of years ago. But the technology to produce utility-scale power is still quite young.

That said, it's being studied. Hawaiian Electric has looked into the possibility and has identified some of the best places around the Islands to make power out of tidal flow.

Some of the most promising locations are at the pointy places on the islands that face east and west, where the big ocean currents surge around the edges of land masses. Among the best appear to be Makapu'u and Ka'ena and La'au on Moloka'i.

Canoe paddlers and anglers know them and their currents well.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Felicia mainly soggy, as predicted

The passing of Felicia, now downgraded to a tropical depression and continuing to weaken, is being celebrated in the Islands mainly with rain.

(Image: Satellite view of the central Pacific shows the tiny Felicia with significant moisture just north of Maui and the Big Island. By contrast, the big patch of activity in the lower left of the picture is Tropical Depression Maka, which is comparatively a lot bigger. Credit: NOAA.)

The National Weather Service is reporting rain of an inch per hour on the leeward side of the Big Island. There was steady but not too heavy rain on Maui late Tuesday, and increased rain was expected for O'ahu and Kaua'i.

The most significant wind activity was strong gusts—some as strong as 50 miles an hour—but steady winds were much weaker and in most areas, even gusts were significantly less than that. The winds, and surf activity, continue to support small craft warnings statewide.

Felicia, said the weather service, “has lost all of the key characteristics of a tropical cyclone.”

So it's just the rain, which in some areas may have the potential to cause significant flooding.

Meanwhile, the Islands are bracketed by two other tropical cyclones, neither of which appears to pose any immediate threat.

There's Nine-E, a tropical depression that is expected to pass westward from the Eastern into the Central Pacific as a tropical storm about Saturday. It could develop into a powerful storm, or not. It's not showing much punch right now.

And to the west, there is Tropical Depression Maka, which could grow to tropical storm strength today. It is well west of the Islands, but curving northward. At this time, it does not appear to be any kind of threat to the main populated islands.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Felicia bringing surf and rain, but wind, not so much

The storm Felicia at this point appears to be more of a rain and surf event for Hawai'i than a wind event.

(Image: the 11 p.m. Monday storm track estimate. Credit: NOAA.)

The storm on Tuesday morning is ready to enter the middle of the Hawaiian chain from the east.

Surf is already affecting the Islands. Maui County and parts of the Big Island should be feeling the effects within hours of dawn. And with the storm heading westward at about 10 miles an hour, it will be affecting O'ahu and Kaua'i counties in the next day or so.

Overnight, Felicia's maximum winds have dropped to 40 miles an hour, and appear ready to drop further. The storm is expected to be below tropical storm strength as it enters the state's waters.

That said, a rain and surf event can have serious consequences. Civil Defense authorities are warning about flooding, erosion and all the damages associated with these.

Here is what the National Weather Service was predicting before dawn Tuesday:

“The official intensity forecast calls for Felicia to weaken to a depression within 24 hours and to a remnant low by 48 hours... Felicia may undergo more rapid weakening than forecast if the circulation spins down faster than anticipated.”

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Felica goes left after a head fake to the right

Felicia has weakened significantly overnight, and its forecast path has jogged south again, with the storm's middle set to cross the Alenuihaha Channel.

(Image: The 5 a.m. anticipated track of what will then be Tropical Depression Felicia. Credit: NOAA.)

That takes the heart of the storm just south of Maui County and farther south of Oahu and Kauai.

The winds have dropped enough that the storm is set to be a tropical depression as it heads across the Islands.

In our previous post just a few hours ago, it was expected to maintain winds of tropical storm strength across the state, but the strongest winds are now anticipated to be somewhat weaker, in the 35 to 45 mile an hour range, with more powerful gusts.

For much of the state, winds may not be that strong, but heavy rain and flooding remain a threat during the next three days. For more see the post below.

The first folks to be impacted may be those on the Big Island. Here's is Hawai'i County Civil Defense latest statement on the storm.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Felicia now scheduled to hit O'ahu head-on

Once-hurricane Felicia's forecast track has taken another nudge northward and if it were still at hurricane strength, it would be Hawai'i's worst nightmare.

(Image, the Sunday night estimate of Felicia's track. Credit: NOAA.)

The track takes the strongest portion of the storm right over the heart of the Hawaiian chain, entering at Maui County and passing directly over O'ahu—the economic, political and transportation center of the state.

And it will spend a little more time blasting the Islands, as its forward speed has slowed.

“The latest track forecast continues to bring Felicia across the mid-section of the state. This may potentially bring flooding rains and strong gusty winds to many of the Hawaiian islands,” the National Weather Services says.

Tropical storm systems normally extend high into the atmosphere, but Felicia has lost much of its altitude. While low-level winds are pushing it from the east, upper-elevation winds are blowing from the west, and the combination has sheared the top off Felicia.

While it is weakening, the system is weakening very slowly, and is now expected to maintain tropical storm windspeeds all the way across the populated Hawaiian islands. It is forecast to enter the Hawaiian chain with 50-mile winds and leave the western end of the chain with 40-mile winds. Gusts will be higher.

At present, tropical storm-strength winds extend considerably more than 100 miles on either side of the storm center. The storm is moving forward at about 10 miles an hour, which means that if the center crosses your location, you're potentially facing as much as 20 hours of tropical storm-force winds—along with the associated heavy rain.

Based on the storm route in the 2 a.m. forecast today, Big Island residents should be feeling the effects of Felicia tonight (Monday, 8/20), Maui County tonight and early tomorrow, and O'ahu much of the day Tuesday and Tuesday night. Kauai can expect storm conditions most of the day Wednesday.

Caveat: That's based on our calculations. The weather service has not been making those timing predictions.

And once again, it's not just the wind, but the rain. Even if winds taper off, the rain associated with this storm system will likely be very heavy.

“Regardless of the intensity of Felicia when it reaches the Hawaiian Islands, locally heavy rainfall is still expected to occur and flash flooding remains a possibility,” the weather service says.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Felicia's path nudged north, it'll be wet and windy

Hurricane Felicia--now Tropical Storm Felicia--continues to weaken, but its predicted path has adjusted northward, so that it could impact all the Hawaiian Islands.

As of Sunday morning, it was forecast to approach the Big Island Monday afternoon as a tropical storm, but the National Weather Service calculates the strongest possibilities are that wind strength will have dropped below 39 miles an hour by the time it gets to land.

(Image: The predicted Hurricane Felicia track, as of very early Sunday morning. Credit: NOAA.)

It remains possible that powerful and damaging winds will accompany the passage over the Islands, however.

The entire state is under a tropical storm warning, and the eastern islands under flood and small craft advisories. See here.

That's the caution for Hawai'i residents. Possible high winds argue for putting away anything likely to fly and become a dangerous missile, for pruning limbs away from eaves, for taking down tarp tents and so forth. Once homes are buttoned down, it's time to prepare for disruptions in public services—water, power, and communications.

Every home ought to be equipped with an emergency kit that will carry residents for several days without outside help—food, water, medications, flashlight, portable radio and so forth. Check the front pages of the phone book for details on hurricane preparedness.

Earlier estimates took the center of Felicia over the Big Island and then had it angling south, away from the other islands. But the latest calculations take it on a more northerly path, bringing the center across Maui instead of the Big Island, and keeping the entire state within the cone of possible paths.

In terms of planning, that means every resident of every island should be preparing for strong winds, and perhaps more importantly, the possibility of severe rain—and flooding.

It's important to keep in mind that the location of the center is just a guide. This is a big storm, and its strong winds and thunderstorms extend dozens of miles out from the center. Thus, while the center may not get to Maui and the Big Island until Monday night, it will likely be windy and rainy there during the day on Monday.

It should be moving quickly, and be south of Kaua'i by Tuesday night, but again, the western island could be feeling impacts earlier.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

A different island, a unique perspective: Lessons from Lake Michigan

A benefit of travel is perspective.

In a visit this week to the remote peninsula and islands of Door County, Wisconsin, I found a tantalizing series of models for island life.

(Image: the windmill next to the Washington Island Electric Cooperative power plant in Lake Michigan.)


Many of the farmers here market their produce direct to customers, via roadside venues of various kinds.

Some market firewood, left at the edge of their properties bundled and with a price tag. Grab a bundle, leave $4.

Some have “U-Pick” operations, in which customers go out into the fields to pick their own cherries or other produce, and pay for what they come out with.

Some have small or large shops, selling produce, art, crafts and processed foods. (A cherry orchard and winery selling fresh cherries, bottled wines, flavored vinegars, jams and jellies, dried cherries, frozen pitted cherries (for baking) and much more.)

The farmers, their families (including kids) and neighbors, work these ventures.

It's a business model that seems to support small family farming. Of course in Hawai'i, it's not only not common, it's illegal without a permit. And permit requests are sometimes denied. Go figure.


Bicycles are all over this resort community. People who stay in condos use them. People who stay in hotels use them. People camping in shoreline parks use them. A lot of businesses have bike racks out front. Roads have wide shoulders in most places.

On Washington Island, where there are no shoulders, the bikes ride down the middle of the traffic lane, and folks in cars pass them when they can. Admittedly it's a small island, and traffic is slow anyway.

Families commonly haul babies and toddlers in bike trailers. (It was amusing to see a biker in full spandex, colorful biking gear and a racing helmet, hauling his daughter in a trailer behind his racing bike.)

In one hamlet, the local visitor association had a rack of free bikes. Take it for a ride, return it when you're done. No rental fee.


A couple of major windfarms are visible as you drive into Door County, heading up the long narrow peninsula that juts into massive Lake Michigan. Their vast propellors sweep arcs across the sky.

Out on little Washington Island, a smaller windmill generates power alongside the fossil fuel generation plant at the Washington Island Electric Cooperative.

This small utility—it has 845 customers and 4 employees—has something else that's interesting, as well. It is one of the few places where the internet is carried on the power lines. In association with IBM, the co-op provides high-speed internet over the community electrical lines.

This technology, sometimes called BPL for Broadband over PowerLine, is described as ideal for small rural communities. Washington Island has only about 800 property owners, of which a third are subscribed to the internet service. For more, see here.

One source said the service is a little slower than top-speed broadband, but 10 times faster than dial-up.

The Washington Island Electric Co-op is also installing, with IBM help and some federal financing assistance, a smart grid, which will enable it to better understand and manage its electric load.

All interesting stuff to folks from islands.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Hurricane Felicia weakening fast, but get out your umbrella

Hurricane Felicia is bearing down on the Islands, the first cyclone of the season to have the Islands so directly in its path, but it appears to be dying fast.

(Image: This is an infrared image of Felicia at 1:30 a.m. Hawaii time, still a powerful hurricane. Credit: NOAA)

If they were betting folks, the forecasters at the National Weather Service would be placing serious wagers that the storm will be down to gusty winds and a lot of rain by the end of the weekend.

So, that doesn't mean there won't be trouble for Hawai'i. But thunderstorms and flooding now appear more likely than roofs lifting off and going flapping downwind. That's for the Big Island and Maui, which could start feeling some effects late Monday or early Tuesday.

Oahu and Kaua'i could see even milder effects at midweek, as the west-moving storm is forecast to start curving south, away from the Islands, after crossing the Big Island.

It doesn't mean that Felicia can safely be ignored.

The forecasting service says the storm is losing strength as it moves into cooler waters near Hawai'i, and during the weekend is expected to also meet contrary winds at upper elevations, which will tend to weaken its powerful circulation pattern.

One caveat in the forecast is that Felicia's weakening could be slower than expected, meaning winds will be a little stronger by the time they get to Hawai'i—although still far below hurricane strength. Another caveat is that forecasts of a cyclone's path are notoriously tricky more than a couple of days out.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cyclone Lana approaches: get ready, again

Here we go again.

Another tropical cyclone behaving unpredictably as it nears Hawai'i.

Here's where to find some information about the storm.

How should a Hawai'i resident respond to Tropical Storm Lana?

Be alert, and get your ducks in a row.

A key preparedness measure: have your emergency kit ready. This is a container with a selection of things that can cover your immediate needs in case your power's out, water's off, food's blown away and so forth.

It should have your medications, a couple of days worth of food, some water, a radio for receiving emergency information alerts, and a bunch of other things. Check the front pages of the phone book for a complete list.

For folks who haven't done it, the low likelihood that Lana will strike is not a reason to put this off. It's hurricane season. Every family ought to have an emergency kit ready—whether for hurricane, tsunami, flood or other disaster—if only so you don't have to join the mad rush to sores for last-minute purchases of batteries, toilet paper, rice and Spam.

At our latest check on Saturday August 1, Lana was still scheduled to pass south of the Islands, traveling east to west. If it stays on the path, the main impact will be surf on southern shores.

But Lana isn't doing what forecasters predict. It is moving into an area with contrary winds aloft, which should weaken it, but Lana is not weakening.

It should pass south of the Big Island tonight. Chances are it keeps going.

If not, be prepared.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2009