Niala Prompts Tropical Storm Watch on Big Island

September 25, 2015, 8:45 AM HST · Updated September 25, 11:40 AM
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Image: CPHC Tropical Storm Niala track

Image: CPHC Tropical Storm Niala track

By Maui Now Staff

Tropical Depression 6-C strengthened into Tropical Storm Niala overnight, becoming the 11th system to form in the Central Pacific, and making the current hurricane season, the most active in more than two decades.

The system also prompted the issuance of a Tropical Storm Watch for the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.

Niala was located 580 miles SE of Kahului this morning, and 455 miles SE of Hilo. Forecasters with the National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center say tropical moisture associated with Niala will likely reach parts of the main Hawaiian islands this weekend.

Niala satellite imagery courtesy: NOAA/NWS/CPHC.

Niala satellite imagery courtesy: NOAA/NWS/CPHC.

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The National Weather Service issued a briefing this morning, saying Niala will begin to weaken over weekend and turn towards the west because of a pattern of high wind shear, taking the center of the storm on a track south of the islands. However, the weakening rate and timing of the anticipated westward turn is somewhat uncertain at this point.

Currently, there is a 20% chance that Hawaiʻi Island will experience tropical storm force winds. Heavy rainfall with the possibility of thunderstorms could begin as early as this evening and last through Monday afternoon. Flooding is a serious possibility because of the saturated soils from previous rainfall events.

“We are standing by, continuing communication and coordination amongst all county emergency management and civil defense agencies, especially Hawaiʻi County, to ensure that they have what they need in order to prepare for and respond to any impacts Tropical Storm Niala might bring,” said Vern Miyagi, Administrator of Emergency Management.

Maui is expected to see some heavy rainfall late into the weekend, and the rest of the state will likely experience breezy to gusty trade winds. Increased trade wind speeds will cause elevated surf levels on east and southeast facing shores on all islands.

Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency, advises residents on Hawaiʻi Island to take the following precautions to prepare for possible flooding caused by Tropical Storm Niala:

· Be aware of streams, drainage channels, roads, and other areas known to flood suddenly.

· Make sure to monitor local broadcasters and/or sign up for local notification systems if you live in a flood prone area.

· Gather important documents such as your flood insurance policy. Flood losses are not covered under normal homeowners’ insurance policies.

· Be aware that flash flooding can occur quickly and without warning. Be prepared to evacuate and move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.

· Secure your home and elevate essential items. Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

· Do not attempt to cross fast moving water, especially if you are unsure of the depth.

· Check with local officials and the Department of Land and Natural Resources if you plan to hike or camp next week. Parks and other trails may be closed depending on the weather forecast. Visit the DLNR website at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/category/news/ for the latest closure information.

· Follow the Department of Education online for the latest information on possible school closures. Make sure you know the closure notification procedure if your children attend a private or charter school.

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By Jamilia Epping

The Central Pacifc Hurricane Center is tracking Tropical Storm Niala, which was located about 460 miles southeast of Hilo, as of 5 a.m.

Tropical Storm Niala is moving at a rate of about seven miles per hour towards the northwest, holding maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour. The storm is expected to continue to move in its current direction through Friday evening before taking a gradual turn toward the west-northwest through Saturday. Beginning Saturday night, Niala is then forecast to turn toward the west through early Sunday morning.

Swells are expected to be generated by Tropical Storm Niala and will produce elevated surf along east and south facing shores over the weekend.

Stay with Maui Now as we bring you the latest.

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