Just when it feels like 2020 can’t 2020 any harder, things somehow get worse. The latest example of this year of no chill is the prospect of two tropical cyclones making landfall in the U.S. at once this weekend, albeit 3,700 miles apart.
The National Hurricane Center has its hands full right now with a tropical storm and depression in the Atlantic and a hurricane in the Pacific. That depression should soon form into Tropical Storm Hanna, the earliest “H” storm on record. It’s expected to beeline for the Texas coast this weekend. Meanwhile, Hurricane Douglas in the Pacific is forecast to make landfall in Hawaii also this weekend. Storm tracks for both storms could change in the coming days, so there’s a lot that needs to happen for the forecast of a double weekend landfall to come true. But it would certainly be fitting, given how weird the 2020 storm seasons have been on both sides of the globe.
The Atlantic has seen a spate of pre-season storms, a record run of early season activity, and most bizarrely, a the first-ever landfalling tropical storm on Lake Superior. The most recent record was set only yesterday, when Tropical Storm Gonzalo became the earliest “G” storm. Now with Hanna on the horizon, it’s about to get even weirder. While the storm hasn’t been named yet, the National Hurricane Center has already issued a tropical storm watch for the majority of the Texas Gulf Coast. Landfall is currently forecast for sometime on Saturday late morning or early afternoon with the most likely spot a bit north of Corpus Christi with winds of around 50 mph.
Then there’s the Pacific side of the equation, which has been quieter than normal. Douglas is the first hurricane of the season there, marking one of the latest first hurricanes on record for the basin. But it’s made up for lost time by undergoing rapid intensification into a major Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph. It’s forecast to churn toward Hawaii, where it could make landfall on Sunday while Hanna’s is still swirling over Texas.
Landfalling storms, particularly hurricanes, are rare in Hawaii. The islands are a comparatively small target compared to, say, Texas. The towering heights of mountains, including the nearly 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Loa, also tend to shred storms apart. The last hurricane to strike Hawaii came in 1992, when Hurricane Iniki made landfall on Kauai, messed up shooting for Jurassic Park and destroyed the island. In the years since, the islands have had brushes with hurricanes. Most recently, Hurricane Lane managed to thread the islands without making landfall (technically the eye has to come ashore for that) but still dumped record-setting rain on the Big Island in 2018.
Tropical Storm Olivia is the last cyclone to make landfall in the island chain. It hit in October 2018, shortly after Lane scraped the islands. In a weird twist, Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas two days later, though Olivia was long gone from Hawaii by then. Still, maybe 2020 isn’t so weird after all. Just a completely normal, fine year, really.