A new tropical storm south of Hawaii will move along a similar track as Hurricane Dora – the storm that enhanced ferocious winds that drove the Maui wildfires, one of which became the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century.
Tropical Storm Greg should pass hundreds of miles south of Hawaii, just like Dora, but its affect on the weather and fire conditions there is expected to be much less severe.
Dora was an intense Category 4 hurricane as it passed about 700 miles south of Hawaii’s Big Island early last week. At the same time, a strong area of high pressure was located north of the state. The opposing systems created a strong pressure gradient that enhanced high winds as air funneled between them.
Wind gusts last week reached speeds of up to 67 mph on Maui and 82 mph on the Big Island, according to data from the National Weather Service. Even stronger wind gusts likely occurred and were not picked up by limited reporting stations – especially on the west side of Maui, where winds would have become more intense as they descended nearby mountains.
The atmospheric setup as Greg passes south of Hawaii Tuesday through Thursday is unlikely to be as intense as what helped to enhance last week’s devastating winds.
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Greg will be weaker than Dora as it passes south of Hawaii as a tropical storm. High pressure to the north of the island chain is also not forecast to be as strong as last week. This means the pressure gradient and winds will be weaker than last week’s event and more comparable to Hawaii’s typically breezy trade winds.
But Hawaii is not in the clear.
At least three wildfires are burning across portions of Maui and one is still active on the Big Island as of Sunday night, including Maui’s deadly Lahaina fire, which was 85% contained
Wind speeds will increase across Hawaii from Tuesday through Thursday with gusts of 30 to 40 mph expected. Winds of this magnitude can flare up ongoing fires and drive the spread of any new ignitions.
Dry conditions are still in place across portions of Hawaii with severe drought reported in parts of southern and western Maui, so fire ignition and spread could happen quickly if given a spark, with gusty winds already in place.