Hurricane Hector closing in on Hawaii and volcano

Aug 5 (Reuters) - Hurricane Hector became a Category 4 storm for a few hours early Sunday but then dipped back to Category 3, still a dangerous force, as it headed across the Pacific, threatening to hit Hawaii's Big Island and possibly its active volcano, officials said early Sunday.

Hector's winds dropped to 125 mph from 130 mph, the diving line between Categories 3 and 4, early Sunday as it moved westward at 12 mph Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

The storm was about 1,390 miles southeast of the Hawaiian islands, and it was uncertain if it would hit or just brush by the southern edge of the Big Island by Wednesday, said a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park Maryland.

RELATED: The costliest hurricanes in US history

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The costliest hurricanes in US history
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The costliest hurricanes in US history

11. Hurricane Charley

Total damages: $21.4 billion

Plowing into Florida’s Gulf Coast on the afternoon of Aug. 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley unleashed Category 4 winds of 150 mph as it came ashore. The storm caused more damage as it moved across Florida before skirting across South Carolina and North Carolina. It moved up the Eastern Seaboard until it diminished off the coast of Rhode Island as an extratropical depression.

Charley’s storm surge remained below 7 feet in the U.S., and wind inflicted most of the storm’s damages. The hurricane touched off more than a dozen tornadoes, claiming 10 lives and many homes.

Lee County, Fla. — where Charley came ashore — lost $14 million in tourism dollars due to damage to structures, sea turtle nesting sites and beachfront. About 70 percent of fresh citrus in the Indian River District was lost, as Charley stripped fruit, damaged trees and mangled warehouses and machinery. 

Photo credit: Reuters

10. Hurricane Rita

Total damages: $24.2 billion

Just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita roared into the Gulf of Mexico as the strongest Category 5 storm ever to enter that region. By the time Hurricane Rita made landfall near the Texas and Louisiana border on Sept. 24, 2005, it had weakened from a Category 5 hurricane to a Category 3 storm.

Rita was responsible for seven deaths, and damages stretched across eastern Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. A 15-foot storm surge pressed up to 25 miles inland, while 10 to 15 inches of rainfall pummeled the states, including areas still reeling from Katrina. Winds roared up to 115 mph and the storm triggered 90 tornadoes across the South.

Oil and gas refineries in Rita’s path shut down for a week or more, and 115 offshore oil platforms sank or drifted away. The hurricane flattened thousands of homes along the coast, damaging or destroying up to two-thirds of housing stock in the hardest-hit areas. The lumber industry in Calcasieu Parish, La., lost half its trees, equal to 626 million board feet of lumber. Storm surge devastated the agriculture industry with salt-water-damaged crops, drowned cattle and flattened fencing and buildings. 

Photo credit: Reuters

9. Hurricane Wilma

Total damages: $24.9 billion

Hurricane Wilma wrapped up 2005’s record-breaking hurricane season as the sixth hurricane that year to buffet the U.S. Wilma began in the Caribbean as the most intense Category 5 hurricane on record. It sliced across the southern Florida peninsula on Oct. 24 measuring between a Category 3 and Category 2 hurricane. Wilma brought flooding and damaging winds of up to 117 mph. It also unleashed 10 tornadoes.

The hurricane took just 4.5 hours to cross the state, limiting rainfall to less than 7 inches in the hardest-hit areas. City infrastructure took the brunt of the wind damage, leaving millions of people without power — some for up to two weeks or longer. The state’s agricultural industry took hard hits, with an estimated $1 billion in damages. 

Photo credit: Reuters

8. Hurricane Ivan

Total damages: $27.5 billion

In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan caused damage from Alabama to New York. Steaming through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm, Ivan slowed to a Category 3 tempest before blasting ashore west of Gulf Shores, Ala., on Sept. 16. Winds topped 120 mph, bringing 15 inches of rainfall, a storm surge of around 15 feet and 100 tornadoes.

Reaching the Atlantic, the extratropical storm followed the coastline south and sliced across the southern tip of Florida. Then, it headed west to make a final landfall at the Texas-Louisiana border.

Ivan killed 25 people in the U.S. and left significant hurricane damage in Alabama and the Florida panhandle from storm surge, wind and flooding. States as far north as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio experienced flood and wind damage in the storm’s wake. A $100 million hurricane recovery program also assisted devastated areas in Haiti, Grenada, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. 

Photo credit: Getty

7. Hurricane Ike

Total damages: $35.4 billion

One of the most expansive hurricanes to hit the Texas coastline, Hurricane Ike’s wind field extended 275 miles from the storm’s center. After devastating areas in the Bahamas and Cuba, Ike blasted ashore at Galveston Island on Sept. 13, 2008, with sustained winds of 110 mph.

The wide-reaching storm damaged areas of southeastern Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas as it made its way up the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. More than 100 U.S. deaths were tied either directly or indirectly to Ike’s fury.

The sheer force of Ike’s winds flattened areas of the Texas coast. The storm damaged oyster and shrimp beds and fishing boats, crippling the seafood industry in its path. Storm surge drenched farmland, destroyed crops, killed cattle and razed 17,000 miles of fencing, causing $433 million in hurricane damage to Texas agriculture.

Property damage wasn’t confined to coastal areas. With hurricane-force wind gusts extending along Ike’s path, more than $1 billion in property damage occurred in the Ohio Valley alone. 

Photo credit: Getty

6. Hurricane Andrew

Total damages: $48.6 billion

On Aug. 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew mowed across the Bahamas and Florida as a Category 4 hurricane. Winds reached 177 mph, causing a 17-foot storm surge. Heading west into the Gulf of Mexico, the storm turned northward to blast the central shoreline of Louisiana two days later. Incredibly, the hurricane’s death toll only reached 23 in the U.S.

The fierce winds accounted for much of Hurricane Andrew’s destruction. The insurance industry in Florida was among the hardest hit by the hurricane’s economic impact. The formerly robust property insurance market forever changed, as some insurers went insolvent while others passed coverage restrictions or canceled policies to limit future liability.

Hurricane Andrew’s damage eventually brought about far-reaching and positive change, including improved construction techniques that made buildings more wind-resistant. It might cost more to protect your home against natural disasters, but it’s worth it.

Read More: Here Are the Most and Least Affordable States for Home Insurance 

Photo credit: Getty

5. Hurricane Irma

Total damages: $50.5 billion

Hurricane Irma caused extreme damages to the U.S. Virgin Islands when it made landfall in September 2017, and continued its path of destruction in the Florida Keys. As a result of the Category 5 hurricane, 25 percent of buildings were destroyed in the Keys, while 65 percent were significantly damaged. The storm’s heavy winds and associated flooding also caused damage along the coasts of Florida and South Carolina. Nearly a hundred people died as a result of Hurricane Irma.

After the storm, many of the communities it hit were left without power for days. 

Photo credit: Getty

4. Hurricane Sandy

Total damages: $71.5 billion

Winding its way parallel to the southeastern coast of the U.S., Hurricane Sandy varied erratically from tropical storm to Category 3 hurricane. By the time it meandered to shore on Oct. 29, 2012, in Atlantic City, N.J., its winds had dropped to 80 mph. Dubbed “Superstorm Sandy,” the extratropical cyclone unleashed up to 1 foot of rain as it moved through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Locations in North Carolina and West Virginia received up to 36 inches of snow.

The storm was the widest hurricane on record, with a diameter of more than 1,000 miles. Storm surge raised tidal levels along the Eastern Seaboard, leaving some neighborhoods beneath 2 to 9 feet of water.

Sandy caused 72 direct deaths, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane outside of the South since Agnes in 1972. About 8.5 million customers lost power, transportation and roadways shut down, and the New York Stock Exchange closed for two days.

Workers filed 160,000 unemployment claims in the weeks following Sandy, as businesses closed to make repairs. More than 80 percent of businesses closed for two weeks or less. By year’s end, the unemployment rate had returned to normal. 

Photo credit: Getty

3. Hurricane Maria

Total damages: $90.9 billion

After striking the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix, Hurricane Maria reached Puerto Rico in September 2017. The high winds caused by the Category 4 hurricane severely damaged the island’s  transportation, agriculture, communication and energy infrastructure, and heavy rainfall caused flooding and mudslides throughout Puerto Rico.

The official death toll is 65, but a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2018 estimates that over 4,600 people have died as a result of the storm and its aftermath. Hurricane Maria left many Puerto Rican residents without access to basic necessities like electricity and water, and thousands of people still don’t have electricity, CNN reported. 

Photo credit: Getty

2. Hurricane Harvey

Total damages: $126.3 billion

The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in Texas in August 2017. The heavy rains produced extreme flooding in Dallas and the surrounding areas, which ended up displacing over 30,000 people and damaging or destroying over 200,000 homes and businesses. Eighty-nine people have been reported dead as a result of the hurricane.

Harvey holds the record for the most rainfall produced by a single storm in the U.S. Full recovery from the storm could take years, CNN reported. 

Photo credit: Getty

1. Hurricane Katrina

Total damages: $163.8 billion

Hurricane Katrina was by far the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, and one of the deadliest. The hurricane initially mowed across South Florida, making landfall at the Miami-Dade/Broward county line in the evening hours of Aug. 25, 2005. Ducking westward into the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina ramped up to Category 5 strength, with 175 mph winds.

Katrina then turned north and slowed, slamming the Louisiana-Mississippi coastline on Aug. 29 as a Category 3 hurricane, with 125 mph winds. Up to 28 feet in storm surge traveled several miles inland, covering as much as 80 percent of the city of New Orleans. Katrina sparked 33 tornadoes and dropped up to 14 inches of rain along its path before dwindling to a tropical depression over Tennessee.

Katrina impacted 90,000 square miles, and the death toll reached 1,200, as the storm killed people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. That made Katrina the deadliest U.S. hurricane in nearly 80 years. Southern portions of Louisiana and Mississippi were the hardest hit.

More than 10 years later, parts of New Orleans and other devastated areas are still rebuilding. The full cost of Hurricane Katrina damages wasn’t limited to property alone. About 95,000 jobs were lost due to the damages, resulting in $2.9 billion in lost wages. 

Photo credit: Getty

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Some predictions put the storm on a virtual collision course with the Kilauea Volcano on the southern part of the island. Lava has been spewing from vents on its eastern flank since May 3 and its summit crater continues to collapse.

Scientists differ over how hurricanes and volcanoes might interact, including the question of whether low atmospheric pressure could help trigger an eruption. (Reporting by Rich McKay and Steve Gorman; editing by Larry King)

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