For the past few days, we’ve experienced winter-like weather for our islands: partly sunny, partly cloudy, chance of rain. The trades come and go. I see squalls wafting across the ocean, but they never seem to make it ashore with nothing more than a few spatters of rain. The air is heavy with moisture, making it perfect weather for rainbows, like the one in the background of this picture of the Kilauea Point Lighthouse.
All thanks to Neki. It was a hurricane; now it’s a tropical storm.
When I first heard about Neki, it was traveling westerly, well south of Hawai’i. Then—still west of Kaua’i—it made a curve and started to move northeast. It is now approximately 400 miles west-northwest of the island. In effect, Neki made a loop around the Main Hawaiian Islands.
Unfortunately, the center of the storm is headed for French Frigate Shoals, part of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, now known as the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Encompassing an area larger than all the country's national parks combined--139,797 square miles--this National Monument is the single largest conservation area in the United States, and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. I spent two weeks last December helping count Laysan and Black-footed albatross nests at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, at the northern end of this chain. The Monument is an important habitat for the Hawaiian monk seals and Green sea turtles, both endangered and threatened by this storm. Those few scientists stationed at French Frigate Shoals have been evacuated, but, of course, the wildlife--including multitudes of seabirds--is on its own. And, for this reason, I track Neki’s progress several times a day with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.