When one thinks of hurricanes, one usually thinks of places like Florida or The Bahamas. Some 5,000 miles west and in the middle of a completely different ocean, Hawaii is much less commonly associated. Let’s be clear; it is also much less widely struck by the terrifying natural phenomenon.
However, despite popular perception, Hawaii does have a hurricane season. Many are also surprised to learn that hurricane season in Hawaii begins right around the time families start showing up in droves, thanks to school being let out. Hurricane season begins on June 1st and lasts through November.
Though exceedingly rare, there has been tremendous carnage thanks to the deadly wrath of a passing hurricane. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki visited the island of Kauai, announcing itself with 140 mile-an-hour winds and leaving six fatalities and $3.1 billion in damage upon departure. Other hurricanes have caused considerable damage, such as mudslides, flooding, and other disastrous events.
You shouldn’t let this deceive you. The primal fear the idea of a hurricane naturally inspires is enough to convince anybody to avoid a place that’s been struck even once. Instead, the rational thing to do is to look at the statistics and design a realistic safety plan based on verifiable information.
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The chances of even seeing an actual hurricane in Hawaii, alone being harmed by one, are profoundly low. Every year in the United States, more people are run over by lawnmowers and assassinated by escalators than the number of people killed by Hawaiian hurricanes since 1949, when record-keeping first began.
Hurricanes are so rare that the United States Geological Survey has posited a kind of hurricane immunity theory, speculating that Hawaii’s volcanoes may, by their shape, divert storms.
That all being said, other related problems are much more likely to strike. One is that of hurricane warnings and hurricane watches.
Despite the unsettling title, a hurricane watch is just a public announcement that a hurricane is possible. It doesn’t mean that experts watch an existing storm advancing toward the islands.
On the other hand, a hurricane warning means that experts are doing precisely that. Hurricane warnings are actual weather forecasts, proclaiming the expectation for a hurricane to arrive within the next few days. As previously mentioned, even when a hurricane warning is in effect, the probability that significant damage will be inflicted is astronomically low.
However, hurricane warnings may entail more possible inconveniences, like stormy weather that ruins your chances of a lovely day at the beach. Also, during hurricane warnings, it is not uncommon for beaches to be closed anyway - and that is for good reason, particularly when it comes to being in the water. Do not swim in the ocean or sail out onto the waves during a hurricane warning, as the water can quickly become volatile.
Another inconvenience that hurricane warnings can pose is that they might delay or cancel flights in and out of Hawaii. Travel insurance is a smart move if you’re flying to Hawaii during hurricane season, as is contacting the local airport and your airline for updates. There is also no harm in contacting your hotel or rental owner about what to expect and what to do in the case of a hurricane warning.
Then, of course, there is everyone’s favorite issue when trying to enjoy a tropical vacation: other people. Just because the threat of a destructive hurricane is crazy low does not guarantee that the masses won’t go crazy anyway. Hawaii is usually a loving, community-oriented place, especially among locals - but dangerous weather is enough to make anybody focus instead on themselves and their family first, however unnecessarily.
You can rest assured that, during a hurricane warning, lines at grocery stores and traffic on the roadways will be far more numerous than readers of hurricane statistics. Of course, like Mom always said, it is better to be safe than sorry, and the problem is that this overblown hysteria can quickly become unsafe. Compared to a hurricane, driving on an extra-crowded road during stormy conditions when your anxiety and stress levels are heightened is so much more likely to hurt you or other people that it is analogous to climbing down the side of a building to avoid taking the escalator.
It's never a bad idea to stock up on supplies if you are visiting Hawaii during hurricane season - but if the weather is stormy and the roads are full, we strongly recommend simply staying inside as the best strategy for your safety.
Lastly, in the spirit of being informed, you can always follow @NWSHonolulu on social media. This is the National Weather Service for the state of Hawaii, and it’s a safe bet that whatever they say is more reliable than what the guy running out of Safeway with 27 rolls of toilet paper in his arms says.
So, you will almost certainly not be blown away or crushed under a collapsing hotel. Still, given the potential inconveniences, you may be wondering: should I visit Hawaii during hurricane season?
The truth is there is no “bad” time to visit. Hawaii is like any other trip destination on Earth in that it is prudent to check the weather forecast when you plan to be there and aim for the best weather you can manage. However, you’d be misled to think that the stakes are all that high here. Ask anyone who has spent considerable time in Hawaii, and they’ll tell you - when it rains, it usually rains for about 8 seconds. When it’s windy, it’s usually not enough to knock you over, and the breeze is generally warm and smells like paradise.
In Hawaii, hurricane season poses relatively minor inconveniences in a place with glorious weather year-round overall.
For those planning a trip during the potential hurricane months, you may want to bookmark the Central Pacific Hurricane Center website for future reference.
We hope you find this guide helpful. As always, mahalo and best wishes for your visit!
Hawaii Hurricane & Storm Alerts
When tropical systems are forecast to impact Hawaii, we'll update this page accordingly.