Hawaii bracing for damaging winds, catastrophic flooding as Hurricane Lane approaches

Major Hurricane Lane is forecast to close in on Hawaii and threaten lives and property on the islands due to pounding surf, flash flooding, mudslides and strong winds.

The farther west Lane tracks prior to making an anticipated northward turn for a time may lower the severity of impacts.

In lieu of a direct hit, "Lane has the potential of bringing the state of Hawaii serious and perhaps record damage," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

The ultimate severity of impacts will depend on the exact track and strength of Lane.

Preparations have begun on the islands ahead of the storm.

"All residents and interests on the islands should closely monitor Hurricane Lane and pay particular attention to local officials on possible evacuations and preparations," Kottlowski said.

Download the free AccuWeather app for the latest forecast and advisories related to Hurricane Lane.

Damage to roads, homes and business may occur. People should be ready for power outages. Those living along the immediate coast and along small streams and canyons prone to flooding should be ready to move out of harm's way.

Despite forecast weakening, residents and visitors of Hawaii should not let their guard down as Lane will remain a dangerous and potentially life-threatening storm.

"Satellite derived wind data suggests shear is starting to increase over the hurricane, and this should cause the hurricane to begin the expected weakening trend," Kottlowski said.

Wind shear is the increase in wind speed at increasing elevation or sudden increase in straight-line winds over distance in the atmosphere.

"However, this weakening is expected to be slow at first, and Lane will remain a very powerful and very dangerous hurricane as it approaches the Hawaiian Islands."

Lane was a Category 5, 160-mph hurricane during Tuesday night and became only one of two Category 5 hurricanes to pass within 350 miles of Hawaii, according to the National Weather Service office in Honolulu, Hawaii. The last was Hurricane John in 1994.

Currently, Lane is a Category 4 hurricane. A Category 4 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 130 to 156 mph.

Lane is following in the footsteps of Major Hurricane Hector from earlier this month. While Hector maintained a straight westward course, Lane will make more of a turn to the north.

"As a caveat, there is a risk of a direct hit on any of these islands should a delay in the turn to the west occur," Kottlowski said.

People can expect tropical storm conditions with hurricane-force gusts (74 mph or greater) to precede the closest approach by about 12 hours.

"These potentially damaging winds could spread east and northward over the rest of the islands Thursday night through Saturday," Kottlowski added.

Coastal communities should be prepared for storm surge flooding and overwash where large waves crash ashore.

Although Lane may only be a Category 1 hurricane or tropical storm on its closest approach to the islands, it will still be capable of bringing powerful wind gusts and torrential rainfall. Even a glancing blow can lead to a significant number of power outages and fallen trees.

Rainfall of 6 to 12 inches is likely in many locations of the islands. An AccuWeather Local StormMax of 24 inches is forecast in some locations. In areas that are typically sheltered during the prevailing northeast trade winds, rainfall of this nature can lead to catastrophic flash flooding and mudslides.

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Bathers, surfers and boaters venturing in the waters will be some of the first at risk from Lane.

It is from Thursday to Saturday, at which time Lane will be close by or over the Hawaiian Islands, that seas and surf will be the most dangerous.

Rip currents will increase in number and strength.

It can very dangerous for ocean vessels south of the islands as well as small craft attempting to navigate the inter-island channels.

All advisories or beach closures issued by authorities and lifeguards should be heeded.

Hurricanes that track in from the east and close by to Hawaii typically encounter cooler waters and weaken before reaching the islands. The most destructive hurricanes to hit Hawaii, such as Iniki in 1992, have typically approached the islands from the south.

While there are no additional threats from the tropics in the short term, additional threats from tropical storms and hurricanes are likely into the autumn, due to a developing El Niño.

Because El Niño is a plume of warmer-than-average waters over the tropical Pacific Ocean, the warm water can sustain more hurricanes than average over the eastern and central Pacific, cause them to be stronger in nature and allow them to retain strength for a longer period of time as they approach Hawaii.