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The 1988 Central Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season
Tropical Depression GILMA was on a weakening trend with maximum sustained winds estimated at 30 kt when it entered the CPHC area of forecast responsibility near 17N 140W during the evening of July 30.
GILMA was one of four tropical cyclones that formed at about the same time on July 28th. The National Hurricane Center (NHC), which this season took over the forecast responsibility to the east of 140W from the EPHC, began to issue advisories on TD7E (EMILIA), TD8E (FABIO),TD9E (unnamed), and TD10E (GILMA) within a period of 6 hours on the 28th. GILMA and FABIO moved west and eventually crossed into the CPHC area of responsibility.
GILMA was over lower sea surface temperatures as it moved west northwest on a course taking it up the windward side of the Hawaiian Islands. The center of the weakening depression moved very close to the islands of Maui and Molokai the evening of August 2 and over Oahu and just south of Kauai early in the morning on the 3rd. GILMA was in a dissipating mode as it glided past Oahu and Kauai. Its circulation was evident in the satellite imagery and consisted mainly of low and middle clouds. A few cumulonimbus clouds did spring up north of the center as the system began to react with a cold upper level trough located just northwest of the Islands. Some welcome rain fell over the islands of Oahu and Kauai where locally heavy amounts ranging between two and four inches were reported. The CPHC issued its last advisory on GILMA at 031200Z.
Hurricane FABIO crossed into the CPHC area near 13N 140W on August 2 as an intensifying hurricane with maximum sustained winds estimated at 85 knots. FABIO was one of five tropical cyclones that formed in an active east/west trough of low pressure between Hawaii and the Central American coast during the last days of July. FABIO intensified farther south than most tropical cyclones of the "midseason" variety do. It was in a potentially very dangerous location climatologically with respect to Hawaii as it spun up to a very intense hurricane with winds estimated at 120 knots at 031200Z near 14N 144W. This proved to be the peak intensity as conditions in the upper flow became less favorable and began to make their presence felt on FABIO. These unfavorable conditions included excessive vertical wind shear and, as seen in the satellite water vapor imagery, a cold and dry environment aloft within a trough in the upper atmosphere.
Air Force reconnaissance aircraft flew into the hurricane at 040000Z and found its center near 17N 145W. Maximum observed surface winds were estimated to be 95 knots. FABIO, at this time, was moving steadily toward the Hawaiian Islands and a tropical storm watch was subsequently issued for the Big Island of Hawaii. The watch remained in effect for about 24 hours and was canceled at 050300Z. It was now a rapidly weakening cyclone and was veering on a course that took it westward well south of the Big Island. The center of FABIO passed about 210 miles south of South Point at 061200Z as a tropical depression with winds estimated at 30 knots.
Some high surf was reported along the black sand beaches on the southeast coast of the Big Island. Some heavy showers with rainfall amounts ranging between 12 and 18 inches fell near Hilo as FABIO passed to the south and southwest. Minor flooding and some road closures from high water were reported in the Hilo area the evening of August 6.
Satellite pictures indicated a hint of strengthening as FABIO passed to the southwest of the Islands on the 7th and 8th along a track that was briefly bending northward. The outer fringes of the depression interacted with an upper level trough to cause some heavy showers over the island of Kauai on the 8th. FABIO subsequently weakened again and the last advisory was issued by the CPHC at 091800Z near 18N 165W. The remnants of FABIO were tracked for several more days and could be seen crossing the International Dateline near 22N at 121800Z.
Tropical Depression HECTOR had earlier been a small but intense hurricane as it was moving west quite far north along 18N and over relatively cool waters east of 140W. The CPHC assumed warning responsibility when HECTOR crossed 140W at 090000Z as a rapidly weakening tropical depression. The weakening trend continued as the depression made its way westward and the CPHC issued its final advisory at 091800Z when the remnants of HECTOR were centered near 19N 145W.
The remnants of HECTOR were carried along by the trade winds and into the Hawaiian Island chain on the 11th. This caused some heavy showers on the island of Kauai where more than 6 inches of rain fell on the mountains and locally along the north shore. At the same time, moisture from a tropical disturbance passing to the south of Hawaii made its way north and caused some heavy thunderstorms over the Big Island. Lightning in the Volcano National Park area was reported to have struck two people. The interaction of low level warm and moist air carried along by tropical circulation systems with the cold and dry air in an upper trough was the cause of these heavy rainfalls at opposite ends of the island chain.
As August drew to a close, the CPHC in Honolulu began to monitor activity along the ITCZ to the southeast of the Hawaiian Islands. A
tropical disturbance about 800 miles to the southeast of the Big Island showed signs of development and was named Tropical Depression ONE-C on August 28. TD1C moved west while intensifying and was upgraded to a Tropical Storm ULEKI as it neared 13N 149W at 291800Z. ULEKI continued to intensify and, within 36 hours of becoming a tropical storm, was upgraded to a hurricane at 310000Z near 14N 155W, which is 350 miles south of Hilo, Hawaii. During the next 12 to 18 hours, ULEKI experienced continued very rapid intensification with winds estimated by Air Force hurricane hunters to be 100 knots at 311800Z. Maximum intensity was reached about 24 hours later when wind speeds near the center were estimated to be 110 knots near 15N 159W. Up until this time, ULEKI moved at a fairly steady rate toward the west. However, on September 2 and 3, ULEKI stalled and began to drift slowly north. The upper flow had become weak and westerly with a lack of a distinct steering current.
The people of Hawaii experienced some anxious moments when ULEKI stalled at great intensity so close to the Islands. It was extremely helpful to the CPHC forecasters to have aerial reconnaissance available to continuously monitor the position and intensity of the threatening cyclone. U.S. Air Force reconnaissance crews flew a total of 10 missions and provided 41 center fixes on ULEKI between August 31 and September 5. stimated maximum sustained surface winds of 110 knots were observed between 012026Z and 020028Z. The lowest sea level pressure readings as determined by dropsonde was 957 millibars at 021528Z and 022306Z.
A tropical storm watch was issued for the islands of Niihau, Kauai, and Oahu at 030000Z as ULEKI floundered around to the southwest of the
Hawaiian Islands with winds of 100 knots. ULEKI made several small loops while drifting north before resuming its west northwest movement early on the 4th. There were no effects on the weather on Hawaiian Islands. ULEKI's circulation did produce some swell along the southern shores of the Hawaiian Islands, especially on the islands of Kauai and Oahu. Two drownings on Oahu were attributed to the rough water.
ULEKI experienced a slow weakening trend as it paused to the southwest of the Islands. This trend continued as the once powerful hurricane moved west, passing about 250 miles to the north of Johnston Island and 250 miles south of French Frigate Shoals during the evening of the 5th. The hurricane had little or no impact on the weather at Johnston Island or French Frigate Shoals. The weakening of ULEKI, however, stopped during the evening of the 6th as a favorable upper flow pattern and higher sea surface temperatures caused reintensification with winds increasing to 90 knots.
Continuing its west northwest trek, ULEKI passed to the south of Midway Island. The closest point of approach (CPA) to Midway was approximately 200 miles at 080300Z. Winds observed at Midway at its CPA were 120 degrees at 18 knots with gusts as high as 27 knots while strongest winds reported two hours earlier were only about 5 knots higher. Midway reported the southeast shoreline as having the most wave action and waves breaking and spilling water over the runway.
ULEKI became a typhoon when the CPHC passed warning responsibility to the JTWC on Guam at 080000Z. ULEKI remained an intense typhoon west of the Dateline for several days before declining again while meandering in the area near 30N 165E. The last advisory on the dissipating ULEKI was issued by the JTWC at 140000Z.
WILA was the second tropical cyclone to develop within the CPHC area of responsibility during the 1988 season. The first advisory on Tropical Depression TWO-C was issued at 210000Z as an area of deep
convection near 12N 142W showed signs of development. TD2C was, however, slow in getting organized. It drifted slowly, first west and later northwest, over the next day or two with winds estimated at 25 knots near the center. T he deep easterly flow, in which the depression was embedded, turned to the southwest at higher levels as
a trough in the westerlies approached. This caused TWO-C to recurve toward the northeast at about 231800Z near 15N 148W. Some intensification occurred as the depression moved northeast. The slight intensification was confirmed by an Air Force reconnaissance plane investigating the circulation which measured winds of 40 knots near 17N 145W. Based on the observations received from the reconnaissance aircraft, TD2C was upgraded to tropical storm WILA at 250000Z.
At this time, the vertical wind shear above the circulation was quite large. This caused the lower portion of the storm to begin moving west toward the Hawaiian Islands while the top portion moved east with the upper westerlies. WILA's life as a tropical storm was about 18 hours. The system now devoid of any deep convection quickly weakened and WILA was downgraded to a tropical depression. Moisture carried along with the remnant circulation produced a few heavy showers over the Hawaiian Islands on September 26 and 27.