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The 1992 Central Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season
The CPHC had one of its most active seasons in 1992, working a total of 11 tropical cyclones. Three of the systems became full blown hurricanes in or before entering the central Pacific. Warmer than usual waters over the lower latitudes of the central Pacific as the 1991 El Nino carried into 1992 and beyond is at least partly to blame.
The season started on January 28 with Tropical Depression ONE-C which was subsequently upgraded to a tropical storm named EKEKA and later to a hurricane. EKEKA was followed by HALI, which had its beginning as Tropical Depression TWO-C on March 28. The season then remained uneventful until early September when Hurricane INIKI started as Tropical Depression EIGHTEEN-E in the eastern Pacific.
INIKI was to be the costliest and most powerful hurricane to strike the Hawaiian Islands. The hurricane did close to $3 billion dollars worth of damage as its eye passed directly over the island of Kauai and was one of the costliest storms in the history of the United States.
Tropical Depression THREE-C ended the season off November 21-22, forming south of the Big Island of Hawaii and never intensifying past the depression stage.
Hurricane EKEKA was a rare out of season tropical cyclone that formed close to the Equator in the vicinity of Christmas Island. This was the first central North Pacific hurricane observed during the month of January since the advent of weather satellites in the 1960s.
EKEKA formed within a large area of deep convection close to the Equator that had been observed by satellite for a number of days. Several ship reports as early as January 23 had indicated squalls and strong southwesterly winds just north of the Equator to the south and southeast of the Hawaiian Islands.
The first advisory on Tropical Depression ONE-C was issued by the CPHC at 280900Z with a position of 04.7N 157.8W within the Line Islands just north of Christmas Island and just east of Fanning Island. ONE-C intensified rapidly and became a Tropical Storm EKEKA (Hawaiian for Edgar). EKEKA was upgraded to a hurricane at 300000Z as it moved slowly west northwest toward the Dateline, staying well south of Johnston Island. Peak intensity was estimated at 100 knots and was reached on February 2 with EKEKA nearing 10N 175W. A large trough in the upper westerlies began to have detrimental effects on the hurricane as it neared the Dateline on February 4. Vertical wind shear caused EKEKA to lose strength rapidly and the system was barely of tropical storm intensity as it crossed into the Western Pacific near 09N 180 at 041800Z and became the responsibility of the JTWC on Guam.
The JTWC downgraded the weakening tropical storm to a depression at 041200Z. The depression continued to move west through the Marshall Islands and did not cause any known problems. EKEKA was put to rest by the JTWC on February 8 when its remnants were near 06N 150E.
Warm water on the Equator to the south of the Hawaiian Islands early in the year had the effect of producing some very active deep convection and heavy rains near the Equator from the Dateline eastward to the coast of South America. This is typical El Nino weather during the northern hemisphere autumn and winter months when the otherwise sunny and dry Line Islands get inundated by torrential rains and the pleasant trade winds are replaced by humid westerly winds. These conditions are also conducive for the development of tropical cyclones.
Hurricane EKEKA formed within this area of heavy convection in late January near Christmas Island and moved west northwest toward the Marshall Islands. This very unseasonable tropical cyclone activity repeated itself in late March as Tropical Depression TWO-C developed on the 28th within a cluster of deep convection near 05N 170W. The depression intensified slowly and was upgraded to a Tropical Storm HALI (Hawaiian for Holly) on March 29. HALI peaked at about 45 knots in the area near 07N 175W on the 29th, weakened rapidly, and dissipated on the 30th as strong upper southwesterlies sheared its top off and caused the system to break up.
Tropical Storm FRANK was rapidly declining in intensity as it crossed 140W during the evening hours of July 21. FRANK had earlier been a very powerful hurricane, but was weakening rapidly after moving over cooler waters before entering the central Pacific near 24N. FRANK continued to weaken as it moved northwest and was downgraded to a tropical depression on July 22. The depression dissipated about 800 miles northeast of the Hawaiian Islands near 30N 145W.
Tropical Depression GEORGETTE was a fast mover. It moved across the CPHC area with an average speed of 20 knots. It remained within a narrow latitude band between 16N and 18N with little change in intensity as it crossed the entire area.
GEORGETTE crossed 140W on July 24 at 0800 UTC and moved across the Dateline into the western Pacific at 290000Z. It was still discernible as a weak tropical disturbance when it moved past Wake Island as the month ended.
As mentioned earlier, GEORGETTE was an unusually fast moving system with forward motion speeds reaching 25 kt at times. This made it difficult to maintain a closed circulation as the air approaching the center from southerly quadrants was usually not able to attain westerly wind components. Wind speeds on the north side of GEORGETTE were sampled several times and "ground truth" was obtained as the center passed very close to and just south of NOAA buoys 51004 and 51002. It subsequently passed just south of Johnston Island where squally winds were observed around 280000Z.
The Big Island of Hawaii experienced some locally gusty winds with the police in the Ka'u district reporting winds between 40 and 50 knots at 252200Z. The northern part of the Big Island also experienced pockets of gusty northeasterly winds. Several large waterspouts were sighted at about 260400Z off of Hapuna Beach in the South Kohala district.
Tropical Storm JAVIER had been a hurricane a few days earlier while east of 140W, but was declining rapidly in intensity as it entered the central Pacific at about 2200 UTC on August 7. JAVIER moved on a slightly south of west bearing of about 260 degrees when it crossed 140W near 16N and continued to diminish in strength while moving west. When the last advisory was issued for a position south of the Hawaiian Islands, the remnants of JAVIER were moving west along 12N. Some rainfall and showers along the northern periphery of the dissipating tropical depression were about the only effects felt in the Hawaiian Islands.
The remnant circulation, after passing south of the Hawaiian Islands on the 11th-12th, ran into an upper trough and started to move slowly to the northwest. It subsequently became nearly stationary just east of Johnston Island on the 13th and 14th, sending heavy middle and high cloudiness northeastward across the Hawaiian Islands.
Hurricane INIKI (Hawaiian for sharp and piercing wind) formed over the warm waters near 12N 135W on September 5 about 1600 statute miles southwest of Baja California. This is somewhat farther west and south than the initial position of most mid season storms. The system formed from an area of disturbed weather, which had been tracked for several days by the NHC. It had been tracked across northern sections of South America and later Central America and moved into the Pacific on August 28. It may have originated as a tropical wave that moved off the coast of west Africa on August 18. It was labeled Tropical Depression EIGHTEEN-E as it tracked west at 10 kt with winds estimated at 25 knots, crossing 140W into the central Pacific on the morning of September 6.
The depression began to strengthen and was upgraded to a tropical storm and named INIKI at 080300Z. It continued to intensify on the 8th and increased its westward motion slightly to near 12 knots as the subtropical ridge shifted southward. INIKI was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane at 090900Z near 13N 152W or 470 miles SSE of Hilo and was moving steadily west northwest.
Hurricane INIKI remained on a west northwest course and continued to strengthen while passing 300 miles south of South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii. INIKI was located near 14N 156W or 385 miles SSW of Hilo at 100300Z with maximum sustained winds of 85 knots.
INIKI was approaching the western edge of the subtropical high pressure ridge, a semipermanent feature found north of Hawaii that normally keeps hurricanes south of the islands. This ridge was now weakening as a large low system or trough aloft began to dig south along and just east of the International Dateline. This caused INIKI to take a slight north of west track. INIKI continued west northwest between 12 and 15 knots on September 9 and was near 15N 158W or 425 miles south of Honolulu at 5 am HST on the 10th.
Meanwhile, the upper level flow pattern in the western Pacific continued to change as a series of short waves dug the long wave trough south along the Dateline. The subtropical ridge appeared to be weakening west of 160W with southwesterly flow increasing on the east side of the upper trough while the low level winds turned more southeasterly. It, therefore, appeared that these steering flow changes would eventually turn INIKI on a more northerly track.
INIKI began to slow its forward motion speed during the morning hours of September 10 when located near 15N 159W or 410 miles south of Honolulu moving in a generally west direction at 10 knots. Reconnaissance aircraft reported top winds of 100 knots and a central pressure of 951 millibars. INIKI slowed even more and started to turn northwest. Its center was near 15N 160W or about 400 miles south of Lihue, Kauai at 110300Z. The system had strengthened and maximum winds were now estimated at 110 knots with gusts as high as 135 knots. A hurricane watch was issued for the western Hawaiian chain from Kauai and Niihau west to French Frigate Shoals.
Southwesterly flow ahead of the upper cold trough and the low pressure system to the northwest continued to turn INIKI more northward with time. An intermediate advisory was issued at 110630Z. Hurricane warnings were issued for Kauai and Niihau and tropical storm warnings were issued for Oahu. A tropical storm watch was issued for the Islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai. High Surf Advisories were continued for all of the Hawaiian chain.
INIKI continued to turn more northward while accelerating. At 110900Z, it was located near 17.5N 160W or 310 miles south of Lihue moving toward the north at 12 knots. Hurricane warnings were extended eastward to include the island of Oahu. INIKI continued to strengthen during the early morning hours of September 11 as it moved north along 160W. By 112100Z, INIKI was near 20N 160W or 130 miles south southwest of Lihue and moving north or a bit east of north at 15 knots. Maximum sustained winds had increased and were estimated at 125 knots with gusts as high as 150 knots. The reconnaissance flight measured a central pressure of 938 millibars, the lowest pressure ever recorded in a central Pacific hurricane up to then. Using a dropsonde, the aximum flight level winds of 135 knots made this the most intense period of the storm's life.
INIKI was rapidly approaching the Kauai coast and at 120100Z was located near 21.6N 159.7W or 37 miles southwest of Lihue. The reconnaissance report at the time indicated a central pressure of 945 millibars and a maximum flight level wind of 127 knots. About half an hour later at 3:30 pm HST, the eye crossed the south coast of Kauai just east of Waimea and departed Haena on the north coast about 40 minutes later. Estimated maximum sustained winds over land were 140 miles per hour with gusts as high as 175 miles per hour, making INIKI the most powerful hurricane to strike the Hawaiian Islands in recent history. The path INIKI took was the worst possible placing most of the island in the dangerous semicircle. INIKI moved on a bearing of about 15 degrees on the compass across Kauai while accelerating to 25 knots. It continued north and, at 120300Z, was centered 50 miles north of Kauai's Na Pali coast. The hurricane warning for Oahu was subsequently downgraded to a tropical storm warning. The tropical Storm Warning for Oahu and Maui County was canceled at 120600Z when INIKI was 120 miles north of Kauai moving north at 25 knots and weakening with top winds down to 100 knots. The hurricane warning for Kauai was downgraded to a tropical storm watch at 120900Z. The watch was then canceled at 121200Z. INIKI continued to move north and weaken and, at 122100Z, was located 500 miles north of Kauai near 29N 159W with maximum winds of 80 knots. INIKI decreased to tropical storm strength by 131500Z near 36N 158W and was considered extratropical as it continued to move north while entangling itself with an approaching low pressure system and cold front. The final advisory on INIKI was issued at 132100Z.
Damage was extensive throughout Kauai. Damage from the ocean was heaviest along the south shore of Kauai and affected shoreline hotels and condominiums, especially around Poipu. Wind damage was extremely heavy throughout Kauai as many homes and buildings were flattened or lost their roofs. According to Red Cross figures, INIKI left 14,350 damaged or destroyed homes on Kauai. The number of homes that were completely destroyed was 1,421. A total of 63 homes were destroyed by wave action or storm surge on the south coast of Kauai. The number suffering major damage was 5,152 while 7,178 received minor damage.
Electric power and telephone service were lost throughout the island and only 20 percent of power had been restored four weeks after the storm. Crop damage was likewise extensive as sugar cane was stripped or severely set back, while tender tropical plants, such as banana and papaya, were destroyed and fruit and nut trees were broken or uprooted. The monetary value of the damage caused by INIKI was still mounting, having reached an estimated value of close to 3 billion dollars. The areas most affected on Oahu were the leeward coast from Barbers Point through Makaha and Kaena Point with lesser damage along the south shore from Ewa Beach to Hawaii Kai. Some damage also occurred on the islands of Maui County and the Big Island of Hawaii, where swell and heavy surf from southwesterly directions pounded exposed shorelines and anchorages.
There were six deaths connected to the storm. One woman on Kauai died of a heart attack when a portion of her house fell on her, a man was killed by flying debris when he was out during the storm, two Japanese nationals drowned when their boat was capsized in waters off Kauai, one person died on Oahu when his residence was set on fire by a candle used for light, and a National Guardsman was killed when his truck overturned while trying to avoid live wires during the storm cleanup. More than one hundred people were injured, some after the storm when the cleanup began.
Tropical Depression ORLENE entered the central Pacific early on September 12 crossing 140W longitude near 23N with sustained winds estimated at 30 knots. The top of ORLENE had been sheared off earlier and the remnant low level circulation maintained its character while embedded in the trade flow, moving on a slightly south of west course toward the Hawaiian Islands. The weakened depression made landfall on the 14th, passing in over the Ka'u district of the Big Island of Hawaii. The system was dissipating, but retained enough moisture and thermal energy to produce some heavy thunderstorms as the weak cyclonic circulation rose over the mountainous island. Some localized downpours between 4 and 8 inches of rain were reported. Flash flooding and washed out roads occurred in some normally dry areas near the summit of Mauna Kea and along the North Kona and Kohala coast lines.
Hurricane ROSLYN had been in existence for about 10 days before moving into the central North Pacific early on September 24. ROSLYN crossed 140W near 18N with winds estimated at 75 knots. The weakening hurricane moved slowly westward along 18N and was downgraded to a tropical storm 24 hours later near 145W. A trough in the upper westerlies was now starting to affect the storm and slow its westward progress. On the 27th, near 18N 150W, shearing aloft occurred and the now weakened system began to move northeast and later north over the waters northeast of the Hawaiian Islands where it dissipated. The only effect the weakening cyclone had on the Hawaiian Islands was some higher than normal surf along its eastern shores.
Tropical Depression TINA crossed into the CPHC area of responsibility on October 9 near 24N 140W. The CPHC issued only one advisory on Tropical Depression TINA as the dissipating system moved in a northerly direction just west of the 140th west meridian. TINA had an unusually long life span which lasted nearly 3 weeks from its inception.
Tropical Depression YOLANDA was dissipating by the time it entered the Central Pacific. It had been sheared and completely stripped of its deep convection as it crossed into the CPHC area near 16N 140W moving west about 12 kt. Only one advisory was issued by the CPHC early on October 22 on the dissipating system. The following day the remnant
circulation passed to the south of the Big Island of Hawaii, bringing a few showers to its windward coast.
High sea surface temperatures persisted in the equatorial areas of the Central Pacific even though the 1991-92 El Nino had officially ended. As a result, widespread cloudiness and showers persisted to the south and west of the Hawaiian Islands. A small disturbance did form within a cloud mass centered near 10N 150W. The disturbance tracked west and developed a closed circulation near 11N 155W and was subsequently named Tropical Depression THREE-C late on November 21. TD3C never developed past the depression stage and the last advisory was issued about 24 hours later when the system was dissipating near 10N 157W.