The chaos of 2020 continues apace: Hawaii issued tornado warnings this morning, as if there weren’t enough going on already. Hawaii has not weathered any tornado warnings since 2008, so a pair of them within the span of five hours came as a shock to residents.
“I had to grab my glasses for this one because I saw ‘tornado’ and I thought, ‘This must be the wrong alert,’” John Alderete, a resident of Kauai, told the Washington Post. “I had been hearing the flooding alerts pretty much all night long.”
The first warning went out around 1:30 a.m., when severely stormy weather turned into a strong rotation off the coast of Niihau. The second came in just before 6 a.m., for a rotation near Kauai. According to Hawaii Public Radio, the thunderstorms responsible for creating these tornado conditions ultimately dissipated, although Kauai remains under a flash flood warning. The National Weather Service did not record damage from the storms.
Hawaii does not tend to see many tornadoes: 42 were reported between 1950 and 2018, whereas Texas — one of the states tornadoes love most — usually records between 140 and 150 each year. Tuesday’s warnings resulted from a “Kona low,” a specific type of low-pressure system that forms west of the islands, potentially bringing pouring rains and high winds. Sometimes, per Forbes, “There’s enough lift and wind shear in the atmosphere for some of the storms to turn severe with damaging winds and tornadoes.”
According to the Post, the last time a tornado actually touched down in Hawaii was 2015, when a land spout formed over the mountains of Oahu. Generally speaking, Hawaii doesn’t get a lot of severe weather, but so far, 2020 is a year of stunning anomalies. We continue to brace for whatever calamity it cooks up next.