When Is Hawaii’s Hurricane Season?

Image source: NASA Earth Observatory

Hawaii’s hurricane season runs from July to December, which means if you are planning a big trip to Hawaii it is certainly something to think about. With that being said, the Hawaiian islands are usually at very low risk of getting hit by hurricanes, and seldom even do get hit by hurricanes historically.

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Hurricanes are very powerful and destructive forces of nature that people should not only be concerned about but should also be educated about so that the dangers and risks are known about hurricanes. To learn about how to handle hurricanes in Hawaii, and to learn about hurricanes in general, check out this guide.

Disasters happen. We still have no way to eliminate earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, floods or droughts. We cope as best we can by fortifying ourselves against danger with building codes and levees, and by setting aside money to clean up afterwards. – Seth Shostak

The Hawaiian Islands are actually the most isolated island chain in the entire world, located smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is almost 4,000 miles away from California and about 2,400m miles away from Japan, making it pretty darn far from another major country. The island chain itself spans 1,500 miles which also makes it the largest island chain in the world. The Hawaiian Islands are comprised of at least 152 islands (there are more, and some islands are grouped together), but the state only recognizes 137 islands. Out of those 137 recognized islands, there are 8 main ones: Oahu, Hawaii (called the “Big Island”), Lanai, Maui, Kauai, Kahoolawe, Molokai, and Niihau.

Here are some other interesting Hawaii facts:

  • The capital of Hawaii is Honolulu and is on the island of Oahu
  • Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee
  • The Hawaiian Islands are created by volcanoes
  • Hawaii was the 50th state admitted into the union in 1959
  • Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the base of the ocean floor
  • There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet
  • The Big Island grows every year thanks to the Kilauea volcano
  • Spam is most consumed in Hawaii
  • Billboards have been banned in Hawaii
  • Snakes are also banned, meaning you cannot own a pet snake in Hawaii
    • This is to protect native wildlife and smuggling snakes into the state could land you jail time
  • All beaches in Hawaii are public
  • There is no daylight savings time in Hawaii

All About Hurricanes

Satellite image taken shortly after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Texas you can see hurricanes Katia (far left), Irma (middle), and Jose (far right) all lined up. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Before we cover Hawaii’s hurricane season we need to cover the basics of hurricanes and what they are. You have probably heard about hurricanes and the destruction they have caused, whether it was from Hurricane Sandy, Katrina, Harvey, Camille, or Andrew.

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A hurricane is a very large, rotating, low-pressure weather system that forms over the ocean (it can be the Atlantic or the Pacific). When I say that hurricanes are huge, it might be hard to imagine just how massive a hurricane can actually be. Some hurricanes can stretch as far as 500 to 600 miles long, which is as long as the Indianapolis 500. These massive storms also travel slowly, so they tend to strengthen while they’re over the ocean.

There are five categories of hurricanes based on wind speeds. With each category, the wind speed is increased (which means damage done is typically increased as well). The categories of hurricanes are:

  • Category 1
    • Winds are between 74 and 95 MPH
  • Category 2
    • Winds are between 96 and 110 MPH
  • Category 3
    • Winds are between 111 and 129 MPH
  • Category 4
    • Winds are between 130 and 156 MPH
  • Category 5
    • Winds are more than 157 MPH

Hurricanes that are category 5 are devastating to the towns and the places that it makes landfall at. So when you hear about these massive category 5 hurricanes hitting countries or making landfall in the States, know that it can be causing an insane amount of damage. So far, and as of the writing of this article, there have been a total of 33 category 5 hurricanes in recorded history. 2007 and in 2017 were the only years that more than one category 5 hurricane made landfall, so it is not an overly common occurrence to experience category 5 hurricanes.

Top 10 Costliest Atlantic Hurricanes
NumberNameCategoryHurricane SeasonDamage Done in Billions
1KatrinaCategory 52005$125
2HarveyCategory 42017$125
3MariaCategory 52017$92
4SandyCategory 32012$68.70
5IrmaCategory 52017$64.80
6IkeCategory 42008$38
7WilmaCategory 52005$27.40
8AndrewCategory 51992$27.30
9IvanCategory 52004$26
10RitaCategory 52005$18.50

Hawaiian Hurricanes

NOAA satellite imaging of Hurricane Iniki hitting Hawaii as a category 4 hurricane. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Hawaii is an island, and like most islands, it is susceptible to potential hurricanes. However, Hawaiian hurricanes are very rare and typically Hawaii does not get hit head-on by hurricanes. That isn’t to say that they don’t get skirted by hurricanes or that they don’t get remnants of storms, because they do. The most recent, and the worst hurricane in Hawaii’s history, was Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

Hurricane Iniki was the strongest hurricane to hit Hawaii in the state’s recorded history. It formed on September 5, 1992, during an El Nino period. By the 8th it was classified as a tropical storm, and by the 9th it was classified as a hurricane. Iniki struck the island of Kaua’i on September 11 as a category 4 hurricane with sustaining winds at 145 miles an hour. The wind gusts were reaching 225 miles an hour. Iniki dissipated and disappeared September 13 and caused 3.1 billion dollars worth of damage, and caused 6 deaths. It was the first hurricane to hit Hawaii since Hurricane Iwa in 1982.

Hawaii does have a hurricane season, just like the mainland of the US. Their hurricane season runs from July to December. However, Hawaii almost always has a high-pressure zone to its north that protects it from hurricanes and major storms in general. Being prepared for a hurricane is always important though, so always keep an eye out for weather reports and be prepared in case of an emergency. Local authorities have been trained extensively in how to handle hurricanes and it is important to follow their instructions to make sure you and your family are safe.

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Opinions expressed are solely the authors and do not express the views or opinions of Science Trends nor the author's institution.
Cite this article as:
Kate Broome, MA. When Is Hawaii’s Hurricane Season?, Science Trends, 2018. Available at:
http://doi.org/10.31988/SciTrends.22589
*Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly and therefore may not work until then.

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