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The 1959 Central Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season
At 0000Z on July 24 the SS PACIFICUS at 19.9N 127.5W, 1000 miles west of Baja California reported 35 knot surface winds. Based on that report a tropical storm warning was issued with the remark that the accuracy of the position was poor. At 24/0600Z the same ship reported 55 knot winds, and the position given on the warning was 18.4N 120.6W. The movement of the yet unnamed storm was forecast west-northwestward at 12 knots. From 24/0600Z until 27/0000Z there were no further ship reports. Warning positions during this period were based on extrapolation. Advices were discontinued with the 27/0000Z warning on account of lack of data. However, if the storm had moved west-southwest at 6 knots it would have been located by 1800Z August 1 at 15.7N 141.2 W, the point where tropical storm DOT was "discovered." There were no data available between 0600Z July 24 and 1800Z August 1 in the area of the unnamed storm, so it is impossible to determine whether the original storm dissipated or simply was rediscovered as DOT.
At 1180Z an unidentified ship reported 60 knot surface winds at 15.7N 141.2W. This was fixed as the first warning position (01/1800Z) of tropical storm DOT.
At 02000OZ August the following message was received from the S.S SONOMA:
The maximum surface wind recorded at that time was 90 knots. From 01/1800Z until 02/0600Z DOT's position was based on the reports of that one ship. From 02/0600Z until the first aircraft fix at 03/0000Zpositions were based upon extrapolation only. From 03/0000Z until degeneration into an open wave at 08/0600Z, DOT's center was fixed periodically be aircraft reconnaissance. The minimum sea level pressure during the period of aircraft fixes was recorded by dropsonde as 952 mb (28.11") a 03/0000Z. Maximum surface wind was estimated 130 knots. The range of maximum surface winds observed by aircraft reconnaissance and those estimated from central pressure statistical relationships during the period of greatest intensity varied from a 130 knot estimate at 952 mb (28.1111) to an aircraft observation of 140 knots coinciding with a central pressure dropsonde report of 966 mb (28.5311). According to Gray and Fran (1978), "Intensity estimates based on a relationship between maximum sustained winds and central pressure are unreliable on an individual case basis."
The prevailing 700-500 mb flow in which DOT was embedded during its entire lifetime was from the east-southeast, becoming west-northwest north of Kauai. The 200 mb flow for the same period was also constant from the east-southeast, curving gradually northward in the vicinity of the island of Hawaii. The best track analysis indicated that during the time DOT was fully developed it was apparently best steered by the flow near the 300 mb level. As the storm weakened after reaching the longitude of the island of Hawaii the best steering flow appeared to have been near the 500 mb level.
DOT, moving towards the west-northwest with maximum winds of 115 knots (132 m.p.h.), passed 90 miles south of South Point, Hawaii early in the morning of August 5. Late on that day its direction of movement began to change from west-northwest to northwest; having continued to curve rightward, the storm was moving only slightly west of north early on the 6th. DOT continued on this course and passed across the island of Kauai during the night of the 6th. The hurricane then moved generally west-northwestward out to sea to the west of Kauai and was last detected near 23.5 N 164. on August 8.
From August 6 onward DOT appeared to weaken and by the time it had crossed Kauai it had definitely begun to dissipate. However, it brought winds to Kauai reaching a gust of 103 m.p.h. at Kilauea Light with sustained speeds of 81 m.p.h. In some places on Kauai sturdy trees such as palms were snapped off, suggesting that locally the winds exceeded 125 m.p.h.
There was storm damage on Hawaii and Oahu, as well as on Kauai. On Hawaii the damage was minor and was mainly the result of local flooding as a result of torrential rain exceeding 4 inches in several places. Minor wave damage occurred around South Point and on the Kona coast. On Oahu there was slight damage due to local flooding, with storm totals exceeding 5 inches in some places. There was also spot wind damage. Although the highest recorded wind speed on the Waianae coast was only 40 m.p.h., at Barbers Point winds locally must have been in excess of 60 m.p.h. in gusts to account for the ripping away of roofs and damage to cars from flying objects.
While combined damage totals of Hawaii and Oahu were estimated at no more than $150,000, the mainly agricultural damages on Kauai were estimated 5.5 to 6 million dollars, due chiefly to the breaking of older sugar cane and to loss of tips in younger cane. In addition, there was minor to severe damage to hundreds of buildings in the Kilauea, Lihue and Lawai areas. Severe tree damage occurred in these areas and in Waimea Canyon. Several hundred trees were snapped or blown over and thousands were severely pruned. On several macadamia nut farms tree losses were especially severe, resulting in heavy financial losses.
Local flooding and wave action along the coast, produced some damage. Flooding was particularly costly on the pineapple plantations with losses exceeding $200,000. Wave damage was spotty and probably totaled $100,000, chiefly on the east and southeast coasts. Fortunately, no loss of life or serious injuries occurred as a result of the storm.
DOT had an unusually large eye, 35-40 miles in diameter, throughout its known track; the eye never became elongated along the storm's direction of movement, even just prior to dissipation.
The following report of a yacht which successfully navigated through the eye of DOT is presented in the hope that it will prove interesting and instructive to some of the many yachtsmen in the Hawaiian area. The report was written by Joel B. Cox, a civil engineer and yachtsman with many years of sailing experience. It is copied from the July 1960 issue of the Mariners Weather Log.
"The hurricane forecasts and the protection from winds and seas furnished by the mountainous island of Kauai led to the decision which took the Yacht ESPRIT through the eye of Hurricane DOT during a passage around the west and south of the island on August 5 and 6 of 1959. Kauai is a high island, roughly circular, with an interior mountain mass rising to over 5,000 ft. Lower portions from 1 mile to 10 miles in width border the coast, with the exception of the northwest coast, where 4,000 ft. cliffs plunge directly into the sea. Nawiliwili on the southeast coast and Port Allen on the south are protected by breakwaters. Port Allen harbor is unprotected in southwest winds and all other anchorages are exposed to winds from directly seaward.
"On Tuesday, August 4, four yachts, including ESPRIT, were at anchor in Hanalei Bay on the northwest coast. The bay is semicircular, open to the northwest, with an anchorage partially protected by a reef at the northern end of the beach. This anchorage has a good sand bottom and is protected against seas from all directions except northwest. Mountains, 3,000 ft. high, are close to the head of the bay. Qn the morning of August 4, hurricane DOT was moving quite regularly on a course which promised to take its center south of Kauai. The U.S. Coast Guard advised moving the yachts to Nawiliwili Harbor. Three of the vessels followed this advice, and after a battle with the strong reinforced trades then blowing made the passage northeast of the island to this port, where they subsequently rode out the hurricane at moorings, with no damage but some difficulty.
"ESPRIT's home port during the summer months is at Hanalei, and in view of past experience and the excellent holding ground in Hanalei Bay compared to the soft bed in Nawiliwili, I chose at this time to remain at anchor in Hanalei. Heavy additional anchors were laid out and as events proved the ship would probably have been safe if she had ridden out the storm at this anchorage.
"However, the morning broadcast of Thursday, August 6 indicated a sharp curvature of the path of the hurricane's center to the north, and a prediction that it would pass eastward of Kauai that evening between Kauai and Oahu. Since this would have given strong northwest gales at Hanalei, I then decided to take the ship to sea to the southwestward. All gear on deck was removed or secured with extra care, the mainsail reefed and sail made at 0900.
"ESPRIT is an ocean racing and cruising cutter, 40 ft. overall and 29 ft. along the waterline. The ocean cutter class is noted for ability and ease of handling in heavy weather. All gear was heavy and in good condition. The cockpit was protected by a nylon spray hood which stood throughout and assisted greatly in holding her head to the wind without other sail.
"The following extracts from the log describes the conditions met and the reasoning behind the changes of plan and course. Time is given in local standard time:
'August 5, 0900: Left Hanalei Bay. Reefed mainsail and staysail. Wind moderate in bay but heavy east-northeast offshore. Speed 7.8 kt. (maximum speed under sail).
'1100 to 1030: Increasing wind. Since I was clear of the island, I stowed the mainsail and lashed it securely with its boom right down to the doghouse. Seas heavy from northeast.
'1030: Course resumed about 4 mi. offshore under staysail (95 sq. ft.) and wind on quarter. Ship's performance excellent, before heavy sea..
'1300: Wind increasing and seas higher, but a belt of calm was visible close inshore in the lee of the cliffs. Course altered to southeast until close inshore. Auxiliary engine started. Seas here moderate and wind calm.
'1340: Light wind from north. Engine shut down and course around island resumed under reduced speed. The decision here was to take full advantage of the lee of the island, thinking that the center in passing to the eastward on a northerly course would bring winds around to northwest and west, permitting a sheltered course all night. Wind directions were so strongly influenced by the topography of the island as to offer little clue as to the direction in which the center lay.
'1610: Heavy swell (20 ft.) from the southeast and light variable winds. Ran engine for one-half hour.
'1640: Gale velocity, wind from north, apparently plunging down over the mountain
slopes to the north. Island effective in giving protection against wind-driven seas.
'1700: Very heavy northerly wind. It became apparent that at least a close approach to the storm center would result from this course. Reversed course to west, still under staysail, hoping that it might still be possible to pass north and then west of Niihau and Lehua.
'1730 It was now evident that it would not be certain that Lehua could be safely cleared to the northward. Heavy rain obscuring visibility. The decision was now made to run before the wind to the south for sea room, keeping well to the eastward of Niihau. The jibe was successfully executed and the ship ran-off well.
'1740: Winds of hurricane force a little west of north, heavy driving rain and the whole air filled with flying cloud and spray. The staysail was successfully brought on deck and lashed, the ship lying six points off the wind with the wind pressure on the doghouse. As I was sailing singlehanded the ease and certainty with which she behaved with a lashed helm was of the utmost value. The vessel was now put before the wind and made eight knots under bare pole, handling easily and as yet not menaced by the overtaking seas which were picking up as distance from the island was made, but which were blown flat by the force of the wind.
'At sunset the whole cloud in which the ship was immersed became a brilliant red, uniform in all directions.
'1840: Black dark, heavy blinding rain, hurricane force wind, sea increasing but ship still handling with ease. As some sea room had been gained the ship was hove to on the port tack. The doghouse held her head about six points from the wind, and there did not seem to be much danger to the ship although the motion was violent and the noise terrific.
'1920:Quite suddenly the weather cleared and the wind dropped to calm. A bright starlight sky overhead gave enough light to see the mountains, dark to the north, and towering ghostly white clouds nearby to the west, quite clearly to the east and vaguely to the south.
Started engine and headed somewhat south of east. Rehoisted staysail. Seas were confused but not heavy and the southeast swell still dominated.
'2200:Winds of gale force but not hurricane force from almost due south. A course well south of east could easily be made good with staysail alone. The seas for the rest of the night were highly irregular and lurchers came aboard frequently filling the cockpit to the helman's great annoyance, but without any vicious force, though the motion was more severe and erratic than at any other time.
'August 6, 0100: Clear enough to make out shore lights and obtain exact position. Altered course to northeast with wind on quarter.
'0300:Off the entrance to Nawiliwili. Not knowing conditions in the harbor after the passage of the hurricane, I jogged off and on until daylight, when I hoisted the reefed mainsail for entrance and anchoring. Dead calm in the lee of the high land to the south of the harbor, and drifted into anchorage.
The only damage sustained by the ship was the breaking of a jumper stay turnbuckle, some time after midnight, caused by the violent jerking of the ship and mast in the confused seas.
The failure to outguess the storm was apparently typical of the uncertainty of course prediction when the path is curving to the north. Fortunately, the hurricane was in its weakening phase and winds were probably not over 100 m.p.h.
'The greatest danger to a well designed small vessel is from seas and not from the force of the wind. Even though the center was not avoided the short fetch for the seas from the maximum force of the wind made the protection of the island shore very valuable. It is quite possible that danger and damage were less off the south shore of the island than they would have been farther west, where the original plan would have placed the ship. Of course the original decision to go to sea proved erroneous but that was because of the uncertainty of prediction of the hurricane's path.
Early on September 6, quite unexpectedly, a series of aircraft reports were received signaling the existence of a tropical cyclone of at least tropical storm strength approximately 600 miles south-southwest of Midway Island. Based on those reports from scheduled commercial and MATS flights between Honolulu and Wake Island, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) at Guam issued the first warning on tropical storm PATSY.
Reconnaissance was requested, and a fix was made at 22.4N 178.4W by a B-50 of the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at 06/1905Z. The maximum estimated surface wind was 150 knots. PATSY was upgraded to a typhoon in the next warning. On account of the sparsity of data in this area, surface and upper air charts analyzed prior to receipt of the initial aircraft reports pertaining to PATSY failed to show any indication of a tropical cyclone.
PATSY first moved northeastward at 15 knots, steered by an upper level trough in the westerlies located to the west of the typhoon. However, 48 hours later, a second trough with an unusual northwest-southeast orientation developed to the west of PATSY, and became dominant. Under its influence PATSY curved northwestward at 15 knots. As the upper trough line approached the typhoon PATSY decelerated rapidly and began recurving northeastward. PATSY then moved generally northward along the 180th meridian at 10 to 12 knots for the next 30 hours, weakening slowly.
On September 9 two ships, the PRESIDENT HOOVER and the JESSE LYKES, encountered 80-knot winds while crossing the International Date Line between 30 and 31N, close to the center of this storm. The final advisory on PATSY was issued at 10/1200Z. PATSY, by oscillating back and forth across the 180th meridian, was quite properly called both a typhoon and a hurricane.
One year earlier, in September 1958, typhoon JUNE had moved northward just west of the Date Line, along 176E, between 2ON and 35N--not far west of PATSY's track. JUNE, a Western Pacific storm normally not belonging in this chronology, is mentioned because it followed a track similar to PATSY's and because its associated weather extended into the Central Pacific. By 0300Z on September 21, 50-knot surface winds extended out 250 nautical miles in JUNE's northeastern quadrant; two pibal wind observations at Midway Island indicated 93-knot winds at 3500 feet. Aircraft reported scattered to broken towering cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds extending from 174E to 180W accompanied by moderate to severe turbulence, heavy showers, and light to moderate icing between 14,000 and 20,000 feet.
Tropical Storm WANDA was located by ship reports to be near 18.5N 146W early on the 26th. WANDA moved northwestward to 19.5N 147.8W, then suddenly turned southwestward to 17N 152W and dissipated shortly thereafter. Strongest winds were estimated 60 knots.