Hawaii, one year after the disastrous Lahaina fire, is bracing for high wildfire danger

Hawaii, one year after the disastrous Lahaina fire, is bracing for high wildfire danger | Image Credit: khon2.com
Hawaii, one year after the disastrous Lahaina fire, is bracing for high wildfire danger | Image Credit: khon2.com

Hawaii saw a widespread outbreak of wind-driven flames in August 2023. At least 101 lives were reported lost in and around the town of Lahaina, according to local officials, in a terrible incident. With Hurricane Dora present to the south and a ridge of high pressure to the north, there was a notable pressure differential that contributed to these flames.

Just one year after experiencing the biggest natural catastrophe in its history, Hawaii may be about to embark on another major wildfire season.

The Hawaiian Islands might still have a considerable fire risk throughout the autumn, according to the National Interagency Coordination Centre. This is especially true on the leeward slopes of mountains, where flames could spread quickly.

Because of their high rate of evapotranspiration—the loss of moisture from the ground and plants—the islands are susceptible to flash droughts.

Only 8% of the islands are technically under a drought, up from previous summer, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The percentage of localities suffering any kind of dryness increased from 0% to over 80% in just three months of 2023, according to the drought status.

Wildfires in 2023 were predicted to be caused by a variety of causes, one of which being the quick drying up of the plants and soil.

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Over 2,000 buildings were destroyed and at least 101 people died in and around Lahaina as a result of the wind-driven flames that devastated many islands.

A HAWAIIAN OF THE FIFTH GENERATION LOSES HOUSE IN A LAHAINA WILDFIRE

The Hawaiian Islands, the Pacific Northwest, and the northern Rockies were identified by the NICC’s fire potential projection as areas with increased wildfire threats through the summer and probably beyond.

Forecasters indicated that an increase in fire risk is predicted for the 137 islands that make up the archipelago due to a combination of the yearly dry season and a change in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.

“During the majority of an El Niño year, rainfall often exceeds normal levels. Dry conditions usually begin around the end of the El Niño year and peak in the first part of the following year. El Niño can occasionally result in dry conditions lasting the entire year, as previously reported by the National Weather Service of the islands.

Because of the rainy spring, there is more fuel available for flames; August and September are predicted to be the busiest months for wildfire activity.

Uncertainties at the beginning of the fire season

Although there is a little probability that certain aspects of the perfect storm scenario that occurred in 2023 will recur, fire activity is still predicted to be above average.

A strong pressure gradient, with a ridge of high pressure to the north of the islands and a powerful storm called Dora to the south, was responsible for last year’s wind-driven wildfires.

These weather components had a noteworthy intensity and were a portion of an uncommon synoptic setup.

Due to an upcoming La Niña, NOAA has forecast below-average hurricane activity in the central Pacific in 2024, which is likely to minimise the number of storms that miss the islands.

How local emergency management will handle the next calamity is another unknown.

Changes to protocols have not been evaluated or, in certain circumstances, adopted since the authorities on the islands have not dealt with a crisis as complicated as the wildfires in August 2023.

In the days that followed the fatal Lahaina fire, the Maui Emergency Management Agency faced a great deal of criticism for its reaction, to the point that its administrator resigned.

Firefighters have issued an 84-page study that highlights the issues and provides several recommendations; nevertheless, the report lacks a schedule regarding the potential dates of modifications.

In addition, Hawaiian Electric claims that, in contrast to what transpired in 2023, it intends to proactively turn off electricity in high-risk regions to prevent any kind of igniting.

As part of the company’s wildfire safety plan, amid anticipated risks, more than 48,000 customers may have their electricity turned off.

Similar practices have long been implemented by power companies throughout the western United States, but they don’t always work to put out flames.

Source:
https://www.foxweather.com/extreme-weather/season-fire-lahaina-year-threat


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