01:07 - Source: CNN
Why hurricanes are so hard to predict
CNN —  

Another big storm is threatening to hit Hawaii this week, as Category 4 Hurricane Lane approaches the Central Pacific island chain just two weeks after Hurricane Hector passed the islands.

Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, Lane had maximum winds of 155 mph (250 km/h) and was about 555 miles (893 km) southeast of Honolulu.

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The storm is currently moving westward at 14 mph (22 km/h) and should continue to move west over the next day or so. But forecast models are indicating that Lane will turn in a more northerly direction by late Tuesday and Wednesday, which could put it on track to bring significant impacts to the islands.

There has been a significant jump to the north in the forecast models over the past 24 hours, bringing the Hawaiian Islands squarely into the five-day forecast cone issued by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu.

Track the storm here

The National Weather Service in Hawaii has already issued a Tropical Storm Watch for the southern and western portions of the Big Island’s coastline.

Hurricane Lane poses a “potential threat to life and property,” according to the NWS, and “efforts to protect property should now be underway.”

More watches and even warnings could be necessary for additional islands as the storm moves closer in the next day or two.

Tropical-storm-force winds could arrive on Wednesday to the Big Island, and to the smaller islands by Thursday or Friday.

In addition to strong winds, the primary threats will be rough surf, coastal erosion, and heavy rainfall, even if the center of the storm does not move directly over the islands.

Large waves are already being experienced along the eastern edge of Hawaii, with a “sizable swell already propagating out from this storm, which is currently impacting the eastern exposures throughout the Hawaiian Islands, showing strongest along the Hilo Side of the Big Island,” according to Jonathan Warren, lead forecaster for Surfline.com.

While there is still considerable uncertainty in the forecast for Lane, it appears the storm will be passing close enough to the islands on Thursday and Friday to bring significant impacts to the southern portions of the islands, especially along the coastline.

Various computer forecast model projections for the track of Hurricane Lane
CNN Weather
Various computer forecast model projections for the track of Hurricane Lane

“One thing is for sure, the coast will continue to feel the impacts of swell, gradually increasing with the approaching storm to a peak around mid-week with strong surf (large waves for some of the well-exposed areas),” Warren said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration has been sending multiple aircraft into and around the storm in order to help observe the hurricane and improve the forecast, providing a better idea of the threat Lane presents to Hawaii.

Landfalling hurricanes are very rare in Hawaii, as the Central Pacific does not normally see as many storms as the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific, and the Hawaiian Islands present a very small target in the vast Pacific Ocean.

Only four named storms – two hurricanes and two tropical storms – have made landfall in Hawaii since 1959. Even close calls are somewhat rare, with Hawaii getting a named storm within 60 miles of its coastline about once every four years on average.