What Makes Hurricane Lane Different from Other Hurricanes?
At a Glance
- Hurricane Lane is a powerful storm that is expected to take an unusual track.
- Heavy rainfall will likely be the biggest concern.
- A hurricane in Hawaii poses different challenges when compared to the contiguous U.S.
Hurricane Lane is a powerful and dangerous hurricane and will impact at least parts of Hawaii late this week.
(MORE: Hurricane Lane Forecast)
Here are some of the unusual and important aspects of Hurricane Lane.
1. Lane is Rare and Not Like Other Recent Tropical Cyclones
Tropical cyclones often weaken as they approach Hawaii due to cooler water temperatures, drier and more stable air and an increase in wind shear (the change in wind speed and/or direction with height). This makes strong hurricanes close to Hawaii an unusual occurrence.
From 1950 to 2017, only 12 hurricanes have passed within 200 nautical miles of the Big Island, Maui, Honolulu or Kaui, according to NOAA’s historical hurricane database. The most recent one to do so was Hurricane Ana in October 2014.
Major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, are even more rare near the main Hawaiian Islands.
The path of Lane is also different from recent tropical cyclones, as it is approaching Hawaii more from the south than the east.
Earlier this month, Hurricane Hector, another powerful storm, tracked well south of the Big Island.
In 2016, Hurricane Lester and Hurricane Darby both weakened as they approached Hawaii from the east, but they brought heavy rainfall and flooding. Darby made landfall in the Big Island as a tropical storm. Lester passed farther north.
Hurricane Iselle approached Hawaii from the east and made landfall in the Big Island in 2014 as a tropical storm.
2. The Forecast is More Difficult Than Many
The forecast path and intensity of Lane have been tricky so far, and the details still remain a bit uncertain.
Hurricane Lane formed more than 1,000 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico, on Aug. 14, 2018. It traveled across the eastern Pacific and into the central Pacific Basin. Initial indications were that a more westward path would likely keep Lane south of Hawaii, similar to Hurricane Hector.
However, Lane is moving toward the north-northwest and will continue on this track through Thursday night as it moves between a ridge of high pressure to the east and a developing upper-level trough to the northwest of Hawaii. It is then expected to turn westward Friday into Saturday.
This path will bring it closer to Hawaii, and exactly when this turn happens will determine how close Lane gets to the islands.
Weakening will continue as it approaches due to increasing wind shear and land interaction.
Small changes in its path and intensity can result in important differences in impacts.
3. Rainfall Threat May Be Biggest Concern
Wind speeds often get a lot of the coverage regarding hurricanes, but with Hurricane Lane, the risk of heavy rainfall is a serious concern, even without landfall.
This is also true even if it tracks a bit farther from land or is weaker, as its slow forward speed will likely result in a prolonged period of very heavy rainfall.
Abundant moisture will spread through the islands from east to west through Friday.
Rainfall totals of 10 to 20 inches are anticipated. Isolated areas could see more than 30 inches of rainfall, especially where rainfall will be enhanced by upslope winds on southeast- and eastern-facing mountain slopes.
Flash flooding and mudslides are likely, and the National Weather Service has indicated that there is the potential for extreme flooding rain across the Hawaiian Islands.
4. Impacts Are Not Like Those in the Contiguous U.S.
Lane presents a serious threat to Hawaii, and its location presents additional challenges.
Since Hawaii is a chain of islands, there are limits to where and how someone can evacuate, so it is important to prepare and listen to authorities.
Evacuating is not an option for most, and officials have warned that there are not enough shelters for residents and visitors. Emergency officials urge only those residents in flood zones to find a shelter. Others should stay at home.
Getting relief supplies to the state by air or sea could be a challenge after the storm. Both methods could take time depending on damage to infrastructure.