Hurricane Lane unleashes flooding and landslides as it gets closer to Hawaii
Hurricane Lane is drenching parts of Hawaii with life-threatening amounts of rain as it crawls toward the state, and the storm’s most powerful winds are expected to whip some islands later Friday.
The Category 3 storm — about 200 miles south of Honolulu early Friday — unleashed landslides and flooding as its outer rain bands hit parts of Hawaii’s Big Island. More of the same is anticipated on the rest of the islands into the weekend.
Lane’s powerful center “will move over, or dangerously close” to parts of the islands Oahu, Maui, Lanai and Molokai late Friday, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said. Hurricane conditions, including winds of at least 74 mph, will start there Friday, the Hurricane Center said.
If Lane’s center were to cross over land, it would be the first hurricane to make landfall in the state in 26 years.
Lane already has caused flooding, landslides and road closures on parts of the Big Island. More than 31 inches of rain have fallen at one spot there, the National Weather Service said, and forecasters say 10-40 inches will have fallen on parts of the islands by the time Lane moves away.
The storm may weaken Friday and Saturday but still is expected to be remain a dangerous hurricane as it approaches the islands.
Hawaii Islands include Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and the island of Hawaii, which is often referred to as the Big Island.
‘It’s going to hang around for a while’
As the hurricane got closer to Hawaii, Gov. David Ige urged residents to set aside two weeks’ worth of food, water and other necessities.
“Lane, while it has been downgraded, is wide and very moist. And it’s going to hang around for a while as it moves because it is moving slowly,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said. “And that is why we are taking so much precaution here.”
Ryan Leinbach of Kailua-Kona said he “brought everything that might fly” indoors and stocked up on wine, cheese and coffee.
“Just hanging out until this evening when things are really supposed to happen,” he said Thursday.
Hilo resident Regina Lola Miller stayed indoors and kept a wary eye on a nearby stream.
“We are just trying to be cautious and be prepared,” she said. “If the pond overflows, then it will be bad. It has before.”
In some areas, officials are blaring sirens and blasting speakers to warn residents of the dangers.
Despite the flooding and landslides making headlines nationwide, some tourists were unfazed, with nearly 300,000 currently visiting the state, US Sen. Mazie Hirono said Thursday.
State and government officials prepare
State and federal officials are bracing for the storm, with Hawaii opening emergency shelters, closing some public schools for the rest of the week, and placing nonessential government workers on leave.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has prepared food, water, generators and other commodities to help with emergency resources.
Some hospitals increased their weekend staffing and postponed elective procedures and surgeries Friday and Saturday in preparation for the influx of patients expected during natural disasters
“If it’s really catastrophic, you see things such as dehydration, exhaustion, infections,” Dr. Leslie Chun of the Queen’s Medical Center told CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now.
Up to 40 inches of rain expected
About 10-40 inches of rain is forecast in some areas through the weekend, which could trigger even more landslides in parts of the Big Island.
A mix of a storm surge and waves will raise water levels up to 4 feet above normal tides along shores near Lane’s center, forecasters said.
“This is expected to result in significant beach erosion and overwash onto vulnerable coastal roadways today through Saturday as Lane makes its closest approach,” Ige said.
Excessive rainfall will lead to dangerous flash flooding, landslides and mudslides in areas that are already drenched. Forecasters believe the storm will turn west — away from the islands — but are uncertain when that will happen.
Flooding near Hilo led to voluntary evacuations, Hawaii county officials said. On one street, police and fire personnel are going house-to-house warning residents of severe flooding and recommending evacuation.
“If residents do not evacuate, first responders may not be able to reach them if the situation becomes too hazardous,” the statement said.
A hurricane warning is in effect for Maui County (which includes all of the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai) and Oahu — meaning hurricane conditions are expected there. The Big Island is under a tropical storm warning, and the islands of Kauai and Niihau are under a hurricane watch.
Lane’s landfall would be rare
The Central Pacific gets few hurricanes and tropical storms; the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific usually see many more named storms.
Hawaii is a small target in a vast ocean, and isn’t often threatened. Hawaii gets a named storm within 60 miles of its coastline about once every four years on average, forecasters say.
Lane could become a further rarity if its center crosses land. Only two hurricanes have made landfall in Hawaii since the 1950s: Hurricane Dot in 1959, and Hurricane Iniki in 1992.