The Central Pacific Hurricane Season officially runs from June 1 until November 30, though tropical cyclones can occur off season and storms can happen at any time of the year. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) in Honolulu and National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami monitor possible storms even during the off season. At this time there are currently no tropical storms in the eastern or central Pacific Ocean that pose a threat to Hawaii within the next five days.
Throughout hurricane season, residents of Hawaii are advised to keep informed and to make sure they have a family plan and emergency kit ready (see “What can I do?” below). During the COVID-19 pandemic, all residents of Hawaii are encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19, if they are eligible, to protect the health of themselves, their family, and their community, especially if they have to go to an emergency shelter or other facility due to a natural disaster such as a hurricane.
Important Health Information
Any time there is a hurricane or heavy rain, stay out of streams, coastal areas, and standing waters that are contaminated by storm water. These may contain bacteria, other pathogens, dangerous chemicals, or other hazards that are not visible.
People affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters may go through a difficult and anxious time. Maintaining mental and emotional health is particularly important. For help with feelings of stress and anxiety, call The Crisis Line of Hawaii 24/7 toll-free at 1-800-753-6879 (or 808-832-3100 on Oahu).
Recommendations for protecting children in response to natural disasters can be found at the American Academy of Pediatrics website: www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Pages/Talking-to-Children-about-Disasters.aspx.
Weather services continue to monitor the eastern and central Pacific region for major storms that may come close to our state. Even without a direct hit on the islands, such storms can bring high winds and heavy rains, which can also cause flooding and damaging surf.
Even when there is no imminent threat, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) advises residents of Hawaii to have emergency kits containing food, water, medicine, and other important items that will last at least two weeks, as well as make emergency plans (see “What Can I Do?” below). These emergency kits will also help sustain families in case of other natural disasters or emergencies that may lead to a loss of utilities or other services.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, public health authorities also strongly encourage Hawaii residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Stay informed. Because hurricanes and other tropical storms regularly pose a risk to Hawaii, residents and visitors are encouraged to keep themselves informed about weather events and their potential impact on Hawaii, including location, whether they will bring strong winds and heavy rain, and when those effects will occur. Important information about the storm, including evacuation instructions (if necessary) will be sent out from official sources and their broadcast partners on the radio, television, and Internet.
Residents of the Big Island are advised to keep up with the most recent information and latest updates, which can be found at the Hawaii County Civil Defense alerts page. Residents of Oahu can get emergency information on various radio stations. and the HNL Info app.
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) reminds everyone to have a reliable way to get information and stay informed. You can get the latest information at the HI-EMA website, by monitoring local news broadcasts on radio and television, and by signing up for local emergency notification systems at the following webpages:
Signing up for emergency alerts with mobile apps or pages such as the National Weather Service can also provide up-to-date information.
Make sure you’re prepared. Because of the unpredictability of such emergencies, as well as Hawaii’s isolation, island residents and visitors are vulnerable in case of a major natural disaster. With hurricanes and tropical storms, as well as other natural disasters, DOH reminds everyone to be prepared by doing the following:
- Have a personal/family emergency plan. Make sure that each family member knows what to do and where to go in case of emergency. Include getting the COVID-19 vaccine as part of your family emergency plan. For useful ideas on making an emergency plan, refer to the DOH disaster preparedness “Make a Plan” webpage at health.hawaii.gov/prepare/protect-your-family/make-a-plan.
Have an emergency kit with enough supplies to last at least 14 days. You will need these items during and after a storm if you have to shelter in place or evacuate. Emergency shelters do not provide food, water, medication, or bedding, so be prepared to bring these and as much of your emergency kit with you as possible if you must evacuate.
- Essential supplies include water, food, medication, hygiene items, radio, flashlight, cash, basic first-aid supplies, clothes, and supplies for infants, seniors, pets, or other family members with special needs.
- During the COVID-19 outbreak, your emergency kit should include cloth face coverings (“masks”) and hand sanitizer.
- For helpful guidelines on assembling an emergency supply kit, refer to the DOH disaster preparedness “Get a Kit” webpage. at health.hawaii.gov/…/protect-your-f…/prepare-an-emergency-kit. (A 14-day emergency kit is also useful in case you or your family have to isolate or self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak.)
- Preparing for disaster during the COVID-19 pandemic may require extra time and create special challenges. You can read about how to navigate disaster preparedness during the COVID-19 crisis at this CDC website: www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/covid-19/prepare-for-hurricane.html.
- Get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. If you and your family have to leave your home because of a natural disaster, you may end up staying in a shelter or other crowded situation, so it’s important to protect yourself ahead of time by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. You can find out how and where by visiting hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine.
For more information, please visit the Department of Health’s disaster prevention pages on protecting your family.
Take action to protect your family and yourself. It’s important to know the kinds of danger that a hurricane or tropical storm can bring. In addition to hazards due to flash floods and other flooding, high winds, landslides, wet roads, and other unsafe conditions, a severe tropical storm can cause disruptions to electrical power or water that can put our food and water supply at risk. The following guidelines can help keep you and your family safe.
Before the storm:
- Gather materials from your emergency kit, especially food, water, and medicine. Make sure you bring masks to protect yourself and othes from COVID-19. Don’t forget your pet’s needs as well.
- Review your family emergency plans. Let friends and family members know of your intentions for weathering the storm and your whereabouts. Use someone away from the area (such as on the Mainland) to serve as your point of contact. Share contact information with others and keep cell phones handy and charged.
- In the hours before a storm, regularly check the news for the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
- Always heed the advice of local officials and comply with orders that are issued, such as to evacuate your area or to shelter in place. Check official sources for shelter locations for your area. The American Red Cross maintains a site to find local shelters in your area: www.redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery-services/find-an-open-shelter.html
- When you secure your property (such as clearing drains and gutters or storing outdoor items that could fly around in the wind), outdoor preparations should be done as soon as possible, before strong winds or flooding might make preparedness activities unsafe.
- Check on those who may not be fully aware of the coming storm or are unable to make personal preparations, such as neighbors who are elderly or disabled or who do not speak English well.
- If you have medicines that require refrigeration, have plenty of ice available in case the electrical power is cut off. Adding rock salt to the ice can help it last longer.
During and after the storm:
- If you are sheltering at home during strong winds, stay in the interior of the home, away from windows and glass.
- Do not be a “spectator” during the storm. Wind and rain from tropical cyclones can carry debris at high speed, which can cause injury or death if it strikes a person. Dangerous surf can sweep people away from beaches. When the eye of the storm passes overhead, the weather may seem calm, but severe conditions can suddenly return, trapping people in potentially life-threatening conditions.
- If the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Throw away unsafe foods, such as perishable foods (like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) if the power has been off for 4 hours or more. For more information on food safety in a power outage, visit the CDC’s page on keeping food and water safe after a disaster.
- If you use a back-up generator or other alternative fuel source for power or cooking during a power outage, take safety precautions to avoid deadly carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Never use a generator inside your home or garage, even if doors and windows are open. Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows. For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning, visit the CDC’s page on carbon monoxide.
- Stay out of flood waters during and after heavy rain. So-called “brown water” may contain pathogens and hazardous materials, and may have potential hazards hidden beneath flood waters. People with open wounds in particular are vulnerable to illness, such as leptospirosis or tetanus, a painful and sometimes deadly illness caused by bacteria found throughout the environment. Tetanus vaccination is recommended for everyone throughout their life, but a shot may be needed following a wound or burn. More information on tetanus and tetanus vaccination can be found at CDC’s tetanus page.
- Turn around, don’t drown. Do not drive through flood waters. Fast moving water that is only six inches to a foot in depth can carry a car away. The flood waters may also be hiding potential hazards.
If your home is flooded or damaged by torrential rain, it is important that you take action to clean up your home and belongings to prevent mold and other health problems. CDC has a great source of information for how to safely and effectively clean up your flooded or water-damaged home at their disaster cleanup fact page.
For more information, visit the FEMA hurricane preparedness page and the National Weather Service hurricane preparedness page.
Maintain mental and emotional health. Many people experience emotional distress from natural disasters that have affected our state, such as volcanic activity and hurricanes, as well as pandemics. The insecurity of not knowing what will happen is a source of stress and anxiety for many people, particularly those in or near adversely affected areas or those who have been forced to leave their homes. Talk to your family members and friends to maintain a strong support system.
Children are particularly vulnerable, as they have trouble processing what is happening. Help your children by sharing age-appropriate information and being honest about what is happening. Set a good example for children by taking care of yourself (which will also help ensure that you will be available to help them). Take breaks and unwind periodically and ask for help if you need it. For help with feelings of stress and anxiety, you can call The Crisis Line of Hawaii 24/7 at 808-832-3100 on Oahu and toll-free at 1-800-753-6879 for neighbor islands.
Learn how to protect yourself from disaster. All Hawaii residents are also advised to learn how to protect themselves from natural disasters. Federal, state, and local agencies have information on what you can do before, during, and following a natural disaster:
- Hurricanes and tropical storms (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
- Volcanic eruption (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
- Tsunamis (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
- Tsunami evacuation zones (Hawaii Emergency Management Agency)
- Earthquake (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
- Sulfur dioxide and vog (Hawaii Department of Health)
- Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC)
- National Weather Service Honolulu office
- Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA)
- Hawaii County Civil Defense alerts page
- Recommendations for protecting children in response to natural disasters (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- American Red Cross Hawaii chapter
- COVID-19 information (DOH)