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Afterthoughts: Cones of Uncertainty

What we think about when we think about hurricanes.


Photo: courtesy of nws/noaa Illustration: Gary Saito 

Hawai‘i has been dodging one hurricane after another this year. With El Nin~o fueling an unprecedented series of tropical storms, the season has sometimes felt like a perpetual string of cyclones, headed straight for the Islands. It can start to wear on a person’s nerves. Welcome to my train of thought for the past few months:


  •  Man, look at that cone of uncertainty on the weather forecast. The hurricane is headed straight for us!

  • Case of water? Check. Bale of toilet paper? Check. 20-pound bag of rice? Hmm, better grab another one.

  • How is it so muggy right now?

  • How did I choose the exact wrong time to wash and wax my car?

  • I’ll probably get a couple of days off work from this, right?

  • I could totally surf this storm-surge swell. I would definitely not wipe out and die.

  • Wait, what if my workplace actually shut down for months? That wouldn’t be good.

  • This is how the zombie apocalypse starts, isn’t it?

  • It takes too long to buy a gun—could I use this broomstick in a post-apocalyptic situation?

  • These drink coasters would probably hurt if I lobbed them hard enough at a marauder.

  • Who are they going to get to play me when they make a movie of this?

  • Jason Statham, probably.

  • Am I going to have to evacuate? I’d never be able to sleep on one of those flimsy shelter cots.

  • My house is a half-mile out of the inundation zone? Score!

  • Oh, wait, my house is actually a half-mile inside of the new “extreme” inundation zone? Crap!

  • Oh, wait, those zones are for tsunamis. Never mind.

  • Do they have wi-fi at the emergency shelter?

  • Are there going to be enough outlets at the shelter to charge my phone? Or is it going to be like being stuck in an airport?

  • How long could I live without my phone? And can you really call that living?

  • If my phone died, how would I reach anyone when I don’t actually know a single person’s phone number by heart anymore?

  • If I had 10 minutes in an overcrowded Wal-Mart, and one backpack, what would I pick?

  • How many cans of chili can one person carry at a time?

  • These jalousie windows are going to last about two seconds in a hurricane, aren’t they?

  • Duct tape would work, right?

  • I bet my place holds up better than my neighbor’s. Look at those flimsy eaves.

  • Damn, I should have bought better insurance.

  • So what exactly is a cone of uncertainty?

  • I should start a band called Cone of Uncertainty.

  • How about Windy Mike and the Cones of Uncertainty?

  • Our music will blow you away!

  • OK, I deserve a hurricane for that one.

  • These weather-casters are just making up these cones to mess with us, aren’t they?

  • I almost want this hurricane to hit us just so it’ll be cooler, finally.

  • Oh, it’s gonna miss us? And there’s going to be another week of hot, muggy weather? Followed by another hurricane?

  • Great. I’m so glad to be alive.

  • Man, that hurricane is headed straight for us!




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Honolulu Magazine June 2019
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