Residents in Hawaii are preparing for the worst, as one of the strongest hurricanes of the season tracks toward the islands. Governor Ibe has already made the move to declare a State of Emergency. Interestingly enough, hurricanes are actually not common for Hawaii because they either weaken before moving in from the east or they pass far enough to the south. There have only been two hurricanes that have ever made direct landfall on at least one of the islands, with Hurricane Dot in 1959 and Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Both made landfall on Kauai.
Hurricane Lane is taking an unusual track towards Hawaii, traveling in a northward direction instead of westward. Although it’s uncommon for hurricanes to reach category 5 strength this far out in the Pacific, Lane reached this level of strength this morning. There have now only been six hurricanes of this magnitude to occur in the central Pacific Ocean, with the five previous ones passing south of the Aloha State.
Impacts will begin this Wednesday as the outermost rain bands pivot into the southern islands of Hawaii, including the Big Island. Some of this rain will be heavy, especially in the mountainous regions due to added lift to the atmosphere. This will aid in the risk for flash flooding, especially as the core of the storm makes its closest approach on Thursday. Gusty winds will also be an issue as each band moves through, so power outages and structural damage will be another concern.
The exact track of Lane remains somewhat uncertain, but most of the model guidance keeps the eye just to the south and west of the islands. However, this does not mean the eye wall or the worst of the storm won’t affect land, so that’s why it’s important to prepare for the worst now just in case the track shifts. We’re especially concerned about the eastern half of the islands, as Lane will still likely be a hurricane (or perhaps even a major hurricane of category 3-plus strength) when it impacts this area. By Friday night (local time), Lane will likely be in the midst of making landfall on the northwestern Hawaiian islands. The good news is that by this point in time, the cooler ocean waters and modest shear should force Lane to weaken into a tropical storm.
As expected, numerous weather alerts are in effect. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Hawaii and Maui Counties, including the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe. There is also a Hurricane Watch is in effect for Oahu and Kauai. According to the National Hurricane Center, “A warning is typically issued 36 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.”
Aside from the wind, which will knock out power to many, heavy rain as well as rough surf will also be an issue. Localized amounts of over 20 inches of rain will be possible through Saturday. The risk for flash flooding and heavy rain does exist island-wide, so it is essential residents prepare and have a plan. Due to how large and strong Lane is, there is no surprise that there currently is and will continue to be rough surf. Waves may approach or even exceed 30 feet along the southern and western coasts of the islands.
Stay safe and keep updated with WeatherOptics for the latest on Hurricane Lane.