With just two tropical cyclones passing through the central Pacific during the 2020 season, Hawaii narrowly avoided the feared dual-threat scenario of a hurricane coupled with a pandemic.

But it was close.

One of those storms, Douglas, passed within 30 miles of the island chain as a Category 1 on July 26. Forecasters called the track “uncomfortably and dangerously close,” where even the slightest zig toward land could have caused severe and widespread damage. Instead, the storm passed safely to the north, and Hawaii dodged a bullet.

The other storm, Boris, entered the Central Pacific basin a month earlier on June 27 as a tropical depression and swiftly dissipated, according to the National Weather Service. Its Central Pacific Hurricane Center released a summary of the region’s 2020 hurricane season earlier this week.

A satellite image of Hurricane Douglas as it churned by Hawaii in July. Courtesy: NWS/2020

The two recorded storms were below seasonal average for the central Pacific, which usually sees four to five tropical cyclones from June 1 to Nov. 30, according to the summary.

It’s a relief for Hawaii, where local communities and residents were already overwhelmed this year as they coped with the effects of COVID-19.

Prior to this year’s season, local officials said that they would have needed about ten times the normal emergency shelter space if a storm struck so that evacuees could maintain safe social distance. Those officials further encouraged residents to add masks and sanitizer to their household hurricane kits.

They acknowledged, however, that it would be difficult for many local families to afford those supplies amid the widespread unemployment and financial strain caused by the pandemic.

It’s not clear whether Karl Fagaragan, the Kalihi fisherman who went viral on social media as Douglas approached Oahu, ever caught that one, fat fish:

Something to consider...

Civil Beat is a small, independent newsroom that provides free content with no paywall. That means readership growth alone can’t sustain our journalism.

The truth is that less than 2% of our monthly readers are financial supporters. To remain a viable business model for local news, we need a higher percentage of readers-turned-donors.

Will you consider making a tax-deductible gift today?

About the Author