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Hawaii may seem like a tropical paradise, but it faces threats from dangerous hurricanes especially during the late summer and early fall. If you’re wondering when Hawaii’s hurricane season is, here’s a quick answer: the Central Pacific Hurricane season when Hawaii may get tropical storms or hurricanes runs from June 1 to November 30 each year, with August to October being the peak months.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide detailed information on Hawaii’s vulnerability to hurricanes, historical hurricane trends, what months and times of year pose the greatest risks, how hurricanes form and approach the islands, previous direct hits and close calls, tips for hurricane preparedness in Hawaii, and more to help you understand hurricane season in this beautiful state.

Why Hawaii is at Risk for Hurricanes

Location in Hurricane Alley

Hawaii’s location in the Central Pacific puts it right in the path of hurricanes that form in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This region is referred to as “Hurricane Alley” since many storms traverse these warm tropical waters on their way to landfalls in Mexico and the southwestern United States.

According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC), Hawaii sees an average of one or two tropical cyclones pass within 60 nautical miles of the islands each year.

Effects of El Niño and La Niña

The El Niño and La Niña climate patterns have a significant influence on hurricane activity around Hawaii. During an El Niño, when ocean temperatures are warmer than average, there is an above-normal chance of hurricanes threatening the state.

The opposite tends to happen during La Niña years, when Hawaii sees below-average hurricane activity. According to the CPHC, nearly 90% of all tropical cyclones that have impacted Hawaii occurred during El Niño periods.

Hawaii’s Isolated Location

One might think Hawaii’s isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would protect it from storms. However, when hurricanes do approach, Hawaii faces additional risks due to its remote location. Residents cannot easily evacuate, emergency personnel and supplies must travel great distances to provide aid, and those visiting from out-of-state may find themselves stranded if flights are cancelled.

While hurricanes are still relatively rare for Hawaii, the islands’ unique geography and El Niño patterns put it at an elevated risk. Residents would be wise to prepare emergency kits and follow storm updates closely during hurricane season.

Visitors may also want to consider travel insurance in case an approaching cyclone interrupts their island getaway.

Hawaii’s Hurricane History and Past Storm Impacts

Most Direct Hits and Close Calls

Hawaii has experienced several direct hits and close calls from hurricanes over the past few decades. According to records from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC), the island of Kauai has taken five direct hits since 1949.

The most devastating was Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which made landfall on Kauai as a strong Category 4 storm. Winds reached 145 mph, making it the most powerful hurricane to strike Hawaii in recorded history.

Oahu has also endured some near misses and glancing blows, including from Hurricanes Dot in 1959 and Estelle in 1986. While these storms did not make direct landfall, they still brought high winds, heavy rain, flooding, and storm surge to parts of Oahu.

More recently in 2014, Hurricane Iselle narrowly missed the Big Island as a tropical storm after weakening from a hurricane. Nonetheless, it still packed winds of 60 mph and dumped over 12 inches of rain in some areas.

Notable Past Hurricanes and Impacts

In addition to Iniki and Iselle, some other notable Hawaii hurricanes include:

  • Hurricane Nina (1957) – Brushed past the islands as a Category 1 storm, killing one person and causing a damaging landslide on Oahu.
  • Hurricane Dot (1959) – One of the largest Pacific hurricanes on record, it paralleled Oahu as a Category 4 storm, bringing high winds and waves but no direct hit.
  • Hurricane Emilia (1994) – A powerful Category 4 storm that took a looping path near the islands, bringing high surf, rip currents, and tropical storm-force winds.
  • Hurricane Lane (2018) – Dumped record rainfall as it slowly approached, with some areas seeing over 4 feet of rain. Widespread flooding occurred, Estimated damage was over $200 million.

The impacts of these storms ranged from flooding, storm surge, high winds, rainfall-triggered landslides, road closures, infrastructure damage, and even loss of life. Hurricane Iniki alone resulted in over $1.6 billion in damage, making it Hawaii’s costliest hurricane on record.

Busiest and Quietest Hurricane Seasons

According to the CPHC, the years with the most tropical cyclone activity in Hawaii are:

Year Number of Storms
1994 11 storms
1976 8 storms
1982 8 storms

The most recent busy season was in 2018, which brought Lane as a major hurricane along with six other named storms for a total of seven cyclones. On the flip side, the years with the least amount of activity include 1999 and 2013, which only saw two named storms each over the course of those seasons.

Timing of Hawaii’s Hurricane Season

Official Dates of Season

The official hurricane season for Hawaii runs from June 1st through November 30th each year. According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC), the division of NOAA’s National Weather Service responsible for monitoring tropical cyclones in the central Pacific Ocean, this is the period when tropical cyclone activity typically occurs in Hawaii’s region.

Month-by-Month Breakdown

While the official season lasts 6 months, the actual threat to Hawaii varies by month:

  • June-August: Minimal threat, as waters are still cooling down from winter.
  • September: Risk increases, as peak of season approaches and water temperatures rise.
  • October: Peak month for hurricanes and tropical storms. Hawaii sees most of its direct hurricane hits during October.
  • November: Threat starts to decline but still substantial through end of official season.

Peak Months for Threats

Statistics from the CPHC show that September to November are by far Hawaii’s most active and dangerous months for tropical cyclones:

Month Average Storms Passing Within 140 Miles of State
September 0.5
October 1.0
November 0.7

So while Hawaii’s official season may span 6 months, the peak threat is concentrated during a shorter 8-10 week period from mid-September through early December, with October being the most active month.

Visitors and residents alike should exercise extra awareness and preparedness during this peak Hawaii hurricane season.

For the latest updates, reports, and emergency information, see the CPHC’s hurricane resources at

How Hurricanes Form and Approach Hawaii

Requirements for Cyclone Formation

For a hurricane to form, certain key ingredients are needed. First, sea surface temperatures of at least 26.5°C (80°F) are required down to a depth of about 50 meters. This provides heat and moisture to power the storm. Second, a pre-existing weather disturbance helps to get the storm spinning.

Finally, relatively low wind shear is needed so the storm isn’t torn apart as it develops. When these ingredients come together in just the right way, a tropical cyclone can be born.

An area to watch for storm development is along the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) near the equator where winds converge, driving air upwards. Disturbances here can tap into warm ocean waters and spin up into tropical storms.

Origins in Eastern Pacific

Most storms that impact Hawaii originate in the Eastern Pacific Ocean basin. Here, the official hurricane season runs from May 15 to November 30 each year. On average, around 16 named tropical storms form in the Eastern Pacific every season, with 9 becoming hurricanes.

Many of these storms take a westward track out over the open ocean, but others curve up toward Hawaii. Storms tend to track from the southeast toward the Hawaiian Islands. Of course, hurricanes are fickle beasts and their paths can be highly variable.

Hurricane Trajectories Toward Hawaii

There are a few typical trajectories that bring storms from the Eastern Pacific toward Hawaii:

  • A trough of low pressure north of the islands can help pull storms from the east on a more northerly track.
  • High pressure northeast of Hawaii can block storms’ eastward movement, bending their path to the northwest.
  • Weakening high pressure near California allows storms to make a more sharp turn from east to north.

Of all the Hawaiian Islands, the Big Island tends to be impacted most frequently by hurricanes given its southeastern exposure. As storms approach, dangerous high surf, heavy rains, and strong winds often batter eastern and southern coastal regions.

Residents are advised to closely monitor forecasts and make preparations when hurricane threats loom. Boarding up windows, stocking emergency kits, and evacuating vulnerable areas are important protective actions.

Withprompt precautions, the aloha spirit will persevere through any storms that come Hawaii’s way.

Preparing for Hurricanes in Hawaii

Develop an Evacuation Plan

When a hurricane threatens Hawaii, having an evacuation plan in place is crucial to keeping your family safe. Here are some tips for developing a plan:

  • Know your community’s evacuation zones and routes. Local emergency management agencies provide maps showing risk areas and preferred evacuation routes.
  • Choose several places you could go in an emergency, such as a friend’s home in another town or a motel. Check whether they allow pets if you have them.
  • Keep enough gas in your car if evacuation is possible. Gas stations may be closed during or after a storm.
  • Have a plan for people with disabilities or special medical needs if assistance may be necessary.
  • Always follow instructions from local officials during an emergency. Monitor TV, radio, and your phone for alerts and notifications.

Gather Emergency Supplies

Hawaii residents should have emergency kits prepared long before any storms threaten. Recommended supplies include:

  • Water – 1 gallon per person per day for at least 14 days
  • Non-perishable food for 14 days or more
  • Flashlights, battery-powered lanterns or cells
  • Battery-operated weather radio
  • First aid supplies and medications
  • Whistle or other noisemaker
  • Dust masks
  • Wrench or pliers for turning off utilities
  • Plastic sheeting, tarps, and duct tape
  • Garbage bags
  • Pet food if needed

Also gather important documents like identification, insurance policies, medication lists, and family photos or valuables. Have cash on hand as ATMs may not work after storms.

Protect Property Before Storms

To limit hurricane damage to homes and property in Hawaii, residents can take preventative measures when warnings are issued:

  • Clear loose outdoor items like patio furniture or trash cans that could blow away and cause damage.
  • Install hurricane shutters over windows, or use precut plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Reinforce garage doors and double entry doors.
  • Elevate items in basements in case of flooding.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts so water can drain.
  • Trim trees and shrubs around homes.
  • Consider buying flood insurance, as storm surge can affect coastal areas.

Taking action before storms hit significantly reduces risks to people and property. Following evacuation orders is always the safest choice if issued for your area.


Hurricane risks may seem out of place in the tranquil Hawaiian Islands. However, the state’s location makes it vulnerable to cyclones, especially during the official Central Pacific hurricane season from June to November.

Understanding Hawaii’s hurricane history, typical storm tracks, seasonal patterns, safety tips, and preparedness steps can help you stay safe and enjoy your time in the islands when hurricane season arrives.

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