Boater alert: Tropical storm season is here

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (06/10/00)
By Ray Pendleton

June marks the start of hurricane season for the central Pacific and, of course, that includes Hawai`i.

Civil defense officials have recently estimated a slightly greater than normal number - five or six - of these destructive storms may effect this area through November, due to warming ocean waters.

For Hawaii's boaters, this should be taken as a warning. Now there is even more reason for planning how to survive the threat of a hurricane, as even a near-miss could produce devastating storm surges along our coasts.

Historically, survival checklists from our civil defense officials only dealt with actions to be taken by land-based residents, so boat owners were somewhat left to their own creativity in planning for such disasters.

But last year, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, in collaboration with the Sea Grant program at the University of Hawaii, produced a comprehensive planning guide called the Hawaii Boater's Hurricane Safety Manual.

The manual begins with a glossary of severe weather terms, so any reader will be able to understand the entire text. For instance, it points out that a tropical storm reaches hurricane strength when its sustained winds are 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or more.

In the manual's first section, it gives general information regarding hurricanes: their origin, season, characteristics, and movement. It warns of a hurricane's extreme danger due to the combination of violent winds, torrential rain, abnormally high surf, and storm surge, which presents the greatest threat to boaters.

The manual then presents six general precautionary measures boat owners should take to best protect their vessels from hurricanes, or any severe weather. A written plan of action, including a list of all valuable items that should be removed from the vessel, and arrangements for implementing the plan even if the owner is absent, are strongly advised.

More specific precautionary measures are advised in a subsequent section devoted to trailered boats, moored boats, offshore-anchored boats and hauled-out boats. Understandably, each situation calls for different actions.

A list of considerations for a boat owner's hurricane planning is then presented in sections relating to time: prior to hurricane season, prior to a hurricane, during a hurricane and after a hurricane. Each section prepares the boat and its owner for the next step, if and when it is needed.

A similar step-by-step hurricane planning list also is included for other members of the maritime community, such as marina operators, boat dealers and boat repair yards. But because such operations usually involve more complex responsibilities, the timetable is further refined to specific hours befoe a hurricane.

To prompt boat owners to create their own written hurricane plans, the manual has a two-page worksheet that only requires the blanks to be filled in to be complete. Once it is filled out, it is recommended that copies be made and distributed to others who could take responsibility for the vessel.

In the past 18 years, two hurricanes, Iwa in 1982 and Iniki in 1992, left a path of destruction on the island of Kaua`i.

No one can predict where or when the next hurricane will strike, only that it's just a matter of time before it happens. Before it does, boaters can prepare by getting their free copy of the Hurricane Safety Manual at the nearest harbor master's office.

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