The weather’s been weird, right? Blazing hot temperatures turned into weeks of torrential rains, which turned back into a scorcher, which turned cold, which turned back hot. “Damn you El Niño, leave us alone!” Unfortunately, it’s not leaving anytime soon, so here’s some steps you can take to prepare for the turbulent Pacific winter ahead!
[section_title heading=”h2″]What is El Niño?[/section_title]
At its core, El Niño is a specific climate phenomenon that happens on the equator of the Pacific Ocean. “El Niños were originally recognized by fisherman off the coast of South America as the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific ocean, occurring near the beginning of the year. El Niño means The Little One in Spanish. This name was used for the tendency of the phenomenon to arrive around Christmas.” [NOAA TAO]
For Hawaii, it means the ocean & atmosphere east of us remain warmer for a longer duration, and extend our summer weather and hurricane season.
The end of the summer saw tons of rain here in Hawaii, with some even complaining that the island was too green! Of course, the real benefit of all that rain was the end of our 7.5 year state-wide drought and a rebuilding of local water reserves. Unfortunately, El Niño will be bringing a much dryer and warmer winter, with many experts reentering our drought conditions.
As a community, despite currently being drought free, we can still be using water conservation techniques. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth, water your lawn at night, wash your cars in the evening, and take short & efficient showers. Being on an island, with only our own water to supply us, we should try to be constantly vigilant despite any surplus.
If you want to go even further, and prepare yourself (and/or your family) for drought conditions, you can begin to store water under your bed (in jugs of course), make sure your stoves and propane tanks are clean and full (should you need to boil and clean water), or even start your own rainwater catchment system!
The other big danger during El Niño is the extended hurricane season for our islands. When hurricanes threaten Hawaii, they usually start off the West coast of Mexico and head across the Pacific Ocean towards us. Lucky for us so far this year, the water cools as you move West, which usually causes the hurricanes to weaken as they approach. Unfortunately, as Mexico found out this past weekend, all it takes is one powerful storm to navigate the Pacific and hit land.
We’ve all heard it before: batteries, water, a generator, and cans & cans of SPAM! But if you want to take your preparedness further, you can do a couple other things like make sure your flood & hurricane insurance is up to date and set. Some companies have delays in starting a policy, so if you are interested, you should get started well before anything bad happens! Other notes would be to have good rain gear (jacket, pants, boots), make sure you have plenty of zip-loc bags (to keep your valuables safe and dry), and don’t forget to backup your computer data (I use an off-site backup service called CrashPlan).
Finally, I want to leave you with a note about the idea of “preparedness” in Hawaii. As an island in the middle of a large ocean, we are inundated with all kinds of advisories, watches, and warnings. Alerts on our phones, civil defense sirens blaring every month, and warnings on the news & social media make sure we are all aware of potential dangers happening around our little home. The positive result of this is that we are now, more than ever, prepared and informed before disaster could hit. The negative result is that I fear some are becoming more and more complacent when those warnings arise. An example of this could be the #guyhagi hashtag, which has become a trove of memes making fun of how often his predictions have turned out false.
Luckily, Guy has a sense of humor and finds it funny. And I am definitely not here to put down those memes, because I too find them really good. I just hope that despite these sarcastic internet jokes, we still respect what the ocean and earth can do, and take a realistic approach to disaster preparedness.