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.
But Hurricane Lane looks poised to impact Hawaii much more than Hector did. The forecast puts the storm very close to the islands, with a direct landfall possible later this week.
Hurricane watches have been issued for Hawaii and Maui counties, in the eastern part of the islands.
A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area, according to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu.
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.
The storm was moving westward at 10 mph (16 km/h) and should continue to move west through Tuesday night. But forecasts indicate Lane will turn in a more northerly direction by Wednesday, which will bring the center of storm very close to Hawaii and Maui on Thursday, the Hurricane Center said.
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.
American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines issued travel advisories to customers flying to or from Hawaii. Both are waiving reservation change fees as the hurricane approaches.
Expected impacts in Hawaii
Tropical-storm-force winds could arrive on Wednesday in the Big Island, and in 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.
“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.
Unfortunately NOAA’s “hurricane hunter” aircraft that flies through the center of the storm had to be grounded Tuesday morning, as it needed to be examined after “encountering strong turbulence last night” when flying through Lane, according to NOAA.
Isn’t there a volcano erupting there?
As you may have heard, Hawaii has been experiencing a volcanic eruption for much of the summer. Mount Kilauea began producing lava flows in early May and portions of the southeastern coastline of the Big Island have been transformed by the lava flows which covered over 13 square miles (35 square kilometers).
Fortunately the eruptive activity of Kilauea has “paused,” with no new lava flows since August 9, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Since there is not much lava reaching the ocean anymore, the hurricane shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the volcano region, according to Denison University Geophysicist Erik Klemetti.
But Klemetti does point out that there could be a threat of heavy rain “remobilizing some of the loose debris and ash” left in the recent lava flows.
Hurricanes in Hawaii are rare
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.