Not since the 1992 Hurricane Season has there been such a threat to the Hawaiian Islands. Hurricane Flossie, which began modestly in the Eastern Pacific Basin, strengthened ultimately to a Category Four Hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour. The storm lasted a bit more than a week, and reached peak intensity twice while regaining its highest wind speed a third time. In the end though, Flossie was no match for the cooler waters the characterize the North Central Pacific, and help preserve the balance that is reponsible for Hawaii's pleasant climate. Besides being a paradise, the Hawaiian Islands very rarely experience tropical storms and hurricanes with an average of four to five named storms per year, and only have been hit by five major hurricanes since 1871.
Prior to the development of Hurricane Dean in the Atlantic, the Eastern Pacific had been experiencing the most development of the two basins. As we approached the middle of August, the EPAC had already had eight depressions, five named storms, and a hurricane. Meanwhile, the Atlantic only had three named storms including one of subtropical nature. Two of those systems formed by the end of the first day of the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The Eastern Pacific had an early start since each season begins two weeks earlier on May 15th. More importantly though, it seemed that high activity from the 2006 season was carrying over into 2007. There had been a total of 21 tropical depressions, 18 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific in 2006. It was the most active season in this region since 1997. Both seasons were El Niño years.
Despite the flurry of activity early on in the 2007 Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season, there had only been one hurricane, and no major hurricanes. Hurricane Flossie would change all of that. The storm started modestly, but eventually strengthened into a severe Category Four Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with maximum sustained winds peaking at 140 miles per hour with gusts in upwards of 165 miles per hour on Sunday, August 12, 2007. Minimum central pressure dropped to 946 millibars, or 27.94 inches of Hg (Mercury). Flossie was at least a minimal hurricane for six days, and a major hurricane for four of those days. Actual storm duration for Hurricane Flossie was eight days starting on August 8th and finishing on August 16th. The storm never made landfall, but did provide the Hawaiian Islands with its most significant scare since September 1992 when Hurricane Iniki crashed ashore as a Category Four Hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour, gusts in upwards of 170 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 938 millibars, or 27.70 inches of Hg (Mercury).
Flossie was born as a tropical depression in the late afternoon of August 8th with winds of only 30 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 1007 millibars, or 29.74 inches of Hg (Mercury). The newly formed system was centered some 1100 miles to the Southwest of the southern tip of Baja California in Mexico. Within 24 hours, the depression strengthened into a strong tropical storm with winds 65 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 994 millibars, or 29.35 inches of Hg. Eighteen hours after that, Flossie had become the second hurricane of 2007 in the Eastern Pacific basin. A minimal hurricane on August 10th, Flossie gradual ramped up to a major hurricane on August 12th after a drop in pressure of 31 millibars in 48 hours. Maximum sustained winds grew to Category Four strength at 140 miles per hour with its minimum central pressure bottoming out at 946 millibars.
The storm underwent some slight fluctuations in strength over the next twelve hours, but maintained its extremely dangerous intensity. However, after the 11 AM EDT or 1500 UTC Advisory from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu, HI, the storm began to encounter much cooler waters around the Hawaiian Islands. Although the storm would re-strengthen to have 140 mile per hour winds as it approached the Hawaiian Island chain at 1500 UTC, or 11:00 AM on Monday, August 13th, pressure had risen to 957 millibars, and it wouldn't stop there. Flossie began to take on a very ragged look as its structure began to yield to the environmental conditions around it. Nevertheless, it did stir up the seas on the southern facing beaches of the big island. Known as a surfers paradise, Hawaii was encountering seas with wave heights ranging from 20 to 25 feet on the afternoon of August 14th when Flossie was down to a Category Two Hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour, and located some 160 miles southeast of Hilo.
According to local TV outlets, winds gusted to 50 miles per hour in the Kawaihae area of the Big Island. Emergency Management officials were taking the storm very seriously despite the fact that tropical systems are much more rare in this part of the world than say the Gulf Coast, or East Coast of the United States. All public schools, private schools, colleges and universities were closed as a precaution. State employees were given the day off while tourists staying in hotels were advised to keep away from windows, and seek shelter in ballrooms or convention areas. Other places such as libraries, parks, banks, and other business were asked to close as well. The National Weather Service Office in Honolulu issued a flood watch for the Big Island as rainfall was expected to be possibly as high as ten inches in some spots.
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After Flossie had re-strengthened to a strong Category Four Hurricane with 140 mile per hour winds on the morning of August 13th, the hurricane began to die a slow death over the notoriously cooler waters of the North Central Pacific. Despite the gradual weakening trend with Flossie, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center had already issued a Hurricane Watch as well as a Tropical Storm Warning for the Big Island on Monday, August 13th. Over one hundred people seeked shelter in Red Cross facilities across the Big Island. To add to the situation, an earthquake of magnitude 5.4 on the Richter Scale hit the Big Island during the evening.
The storm passed well to the south of Hawaii's most populated island of Oahu, but still hampered firefighting efforts against a huge brush fire in the Northern portion of the island with minimal tropical storm force winds. Amazingly, satellite pictures depicted more of a tropical depression, or weak tropical storm rather than a hurricane with over 100 mile per hour winds. Ultimately though, Flossie would spare the island chain, particularly the Big Island by holding its fury offshore at sea. It still managed to provide steady rain for a short period of time, but Flossie mostly brought light rain and little wind. The storm lost hurricane status on the early morning of Wednesday, August 15, 2007. Shortly afterward, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center canceled the Hurricane Watch while the National Weather Service dropped its Flash Flood Watch for the Big Island.
The Hawaiian Islands are not hit often by major hurricanes. As a matter of fact, the Central Pacific averages about 4.5 named storms every year. There have been years with no named storms in the CPAC while others have had as many as eleven such as 1994. The 1994 season was quite memorable in the sense that there were three Category Five Hurricanes that traversed the Central Pacific waters after forming in the Eastern Pacific basin. Those three storms: Hurricane Emilia, Hurricane Gilma, and Hurricane John have been ranked in the top four all time in the Central Pacific. Hurricane John ended up being one of the longest lasting storms on record as it actually crossed the International Date Line into the Western Pacific, where it became a Typhoon. The last monster storm to make news in the CPAC was Hurricane Ioke in August 2006. Ioke was also a Category Five system with 140 knot, or 160 mile per hour winds.
As far as Hawaii goes, there have been five memorable storms since records have been taken including: The Kohala Cyclone of 1871, Hurricane Nina (1957), Hurricane Dot (1959), Hurricane Iwa (1982), and Hurricane Iniki (1992). Hurricane Iniki struck the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, and killed six people while leaving behind some $2.5 billion in damage. Besides Hurricane Andrew, Iniki was the biggest story in the tropics in 1992. In the fifteen years since Hurricane Iniki, there have been some close calls for Hawaii including Hurricane Fernanda back in the middle of August, 1993. The storm had been a Category Two system with 105 mile per hour winds sustained, and a minimum central pressure of 28.79 inches of Hg (Mercury), or 975 millibars. However, the storm couldn't get any stronger, and ultimately faded before reaching Hawaii as it fell prey to the cooler waters of the region.
The following year, Hurricane Emilia and Hurricane Gilma made approaches toward the island with Emilia coming within 150 miles of the Big Island as a Category Two storm while Gilma had weakened to a tropical storm some 400 miles to the south. Hurricane Darby passed well to the north of the island in July, 1998 while Hurricane Jimena headed toward the island, and then turned to the Southwest and weakened after reaching Category Two Hurricane strength with 105 mile per hour winds in 2003. Hurricane Jova approached the islands after being a Category Three Hurricane with winds as high as 125 miles per hour, but gradually weakened and steered to the north back toward the end of September 2005. While the storm didn't directly impact the island, it did manage to weaken the trade winds, which have a great influence on the climate in Hawaii, and also contributed to the instability that followed.
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