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How Common are Hurricanes in Hawaii?

Iselle and Julio are churning over the Pacific headed toward Hawaii, a state comprised of islands that are no strangers to tropical systems over the years.

Late this week, Iselle is expected to approach the islands as a tropical storm, stirring rough surf, gusty winds and heavy rain.

A second system, Julio was following two to three days behind Iselle, and has the potential to take a similar track toward Hawaii.

If Iselle and Julio were to survive as tropical storms and make landfall as such within a few days of each other, it would be the first time in recorded history of such an event in Hawaii.

Statistics on Tropical Storm, Hurricane Impacts in Hawaii

On average, there are approximately five tropical systems per year over the central Pacific Basin. Of these, about two-thirds originate from the Eastern Pacific.

In terms of tropical storms and hurricanes that come in close contact with Hawaii waters and bring either rough surf, heavy rain, gusty winds or some combination thereof, the numbers are significantly lower.

During some years there have been no such systems of concern. However, since the 1950s, on average there have been about seven tropical systems per decade that either caused trouble or delivered beneficial rain.

July of 1994 brought several systems (Daniel, Emilia and Fabio) to Hawaii waters. While these systems where dissipating as they approached the islands, they all occurred within a span of 10 days from July 14 to July 24.

Hurricane Iniki, which hit around Sept. 11, 1992, reached Category 4 strength with winds of 145 mph. It was the strongest and costliest hurricane to ever strike Hawaii. Iniki claimed the lives of six people and caused $1.8 billion in damage to Hawaii. The island of Kauai sustained the bulk of the damage.

According to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, "Tropical systems that swing up from the south, like Iniki, force a great deal of moisture across the southern and western slopes of the islands, where communities are more vulnerable to flooding."

Orlene affected the islands a few days later as a tropical depression, on Sept. 14, 1992.

Other significant tropical systems of note were Tropical Storm Flossie in 2013, Tropical Storm Estelle in 1985, Hurricane Iwa in 1982, Hurricane Dot in 1959 and Hurricane Nina in 1957.

Prior to Iniki, Iwa was the last hurricane to hit. Dot was the last major hurricane to hit the islands.