Hurricane Lane downgraded as it shifts closer to Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — A powerful hurricane unleashed torrents of rain and landslides Thursday that blocked roads on the rural Big Island but didn't scare tourists away from surfing and swimming at popular Honolulu beaches still preparing to be pummeled by the erratic storm.

Employees of the Sheraton Waikiki resort on the famed beach filled up sandbags as shuttered stores stacked them against the bottom of their glass windows to prepare for massive rain, flooding and damaging surf on Oahu, the most populated island.

Hurricane Lane already lashed the Big Island with nearly 20 inches of rain in nearly 24 hours and was moving closer to Hawaii, a shift that will put the Big Island and Maui "in the thick" of the storm, National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Dye said. The agency has downgraded the storm to a Category 3.

The center of the hurricane packing maximum sustained winds of 130 mph was expected to move close to or over portions of the main islands later Thursday or Friday, bringing dangerous surf of 20 feet (6 meters) and a storm surge of up to 4 feet (1 meter), forecasters said.

Lane was not projected to make a direct hit on the islands, but officials warned that even a lesser blow could do significant harm. Some areas could see up to 30 inches (about 80 centimeters) of rain.

38 PHOTOS
Hawaii prepares for Hurricane Lane
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Hawaii prepares for Hurricane Lane
Nina Roberts shops for last minute supplies while shelves remain empty as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
A photo taken from the International Space Station and moved on social media by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Lane in the early morning hours near Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton
Mark Antolin and his son load sand to fill sand bags into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
People walk along a calm Hanalei Beach as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sue Horton
Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Paul Akamine fills propane tanks as customers line up as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Lane Endo of the Alapahoe outrigger canoe club checks their canoes after moving them off the beach to higher ground as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 21, 2018. Picture taken August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Wilder Chok gets gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 21, 2018. Picture taken August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: Local surfers, Ryan Nowak, left, and Jameson Iereneo enjoy a gorgeous day of waves unperturbed by Hurricane Lane's expected landfall in Waikiki in just two days as seen from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort's Lagoon & Beach on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: With more than 270,000 visitors in Hawaii and the majority on Oahu, the tourists enjoy a gorgeous day at the beach unperturbed by Hurricane Lane's expected landfall in Waikiki in just two days as seen from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort's Lagoon & Beach on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: 2018 Frank Dias, owner of Scubatech Marine Service prepare a clients 1975 Skipjack Yacht, 'Sweet Leilani,' out of Kaneohe, Hawaii for the possible impact of Hurricane Lane by doubling the tie downs at the Waikiki Yacht Club at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: Wenkai He, left, waits his turn to fill up his 3 gallon water jug for just $1.50, while Alex Krivoulian fills three times as many water jugs at Safeway on Kapahulu in preparation for Hurricane Lane on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: Cars line up for Diesel fuel only at the Hele station on Kapahulu Avenue in preparation for the possible impact of Hurricane Lane because the station ran out of regular gas earlier on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: 2018 Brayden Nueku, 19, an employee of Frank Dias' Scubatech Marine Service removes the Icen Glass while preparing a clients 1975 Skipjack Yacht, 'Sweet Leilani,' out of Kaneohe, Hawaii for the possible impact of Hurricane Lane at the Waikiki Yacht Club at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: 2018 A view of of the Waikiki Yacht Club member's valuable boats that have been double and triple tied and prepared as best as possible to weather the 150 mph force winds expected to hit this south shore of Oahu Island next Friday at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: A lounge in Daniel K. Inouye International Airport sits mostly empty as Hurricane Lane approaches the island chain on August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: 2018 Avid SCUBA diver, Jacquelyn Wu, 30, loads steel SCUBA tanks that weigh 35 pounds each into her 81-year-old captain's car in preparation for hurricane Lane at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
Hurricane Lane, upgraded to a Category 5 storm, is pictured approaching Hawaii, U.S. in this August 21, 2018 handout satellite photo obtained by Reuters August 22, 2018. NASA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Surfers ride waves in Waikiki beach ahead of Hurricane Lane approaching the archipielago, in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronen ZILBERMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONEN ZILBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Empty shelves of a supermaket are seen as residents of Oahu are re-stocking their water and non-perishable food supplies as preparation for the looming threat of Hurricane Lane in Oahu, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronen ZILBERMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONEN ZILBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A car drives on a road under dark skies in Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo shows South Point Suds, a laudromat located on the southwestern corner of the island, boarded up in preparation for Hurricane Lane in Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ocean View resident Honey Freitas gets propane tanks filled in preparation for Hurricane Lane at the Ace Hardware in Ocean View, on the southwestern corner of the island of Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ocean View resident Beverly Brown stocks up on groceries in preparation for Hurricane Lane at the Ocean Market in Ocean View, on the southwestern corner of the island of Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
A resident of Ocean View, a community located on the southwestern corner of the island of Ocean View, Hawaii, loads up his truck with water in preparation for Hurricane Lane on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
Steve Stigall assists a customer stocking up on flashlights in preparation for Hurricane Lane at Ace Hardware in Ocean View, on the southwestern corner of the island of Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Alapahoe outrigger canoe club move their canoes off the beach to higher ground as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 21, 2018. Picture taken August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Jean O?Neill and her daughter Ceri Godinez measure and cut wood to board up their house in Hanalei, on Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Sue Horton?
Geoffrey Seidman, owner of Honolulu Beerworks, boards up his brewery as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Mike Gonsalves gathers sand from a beach to fill sand bags as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Honolulu police officer Chad Asuncion monitors the water conditions and warns surfers about the conditions as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Wilder Chok gets gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 21, 2018. Picture taken August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 23: 2018 Tesla put up a row of sand bags in front of each door of their international marketplace location to keep property safe from flooding as Hurricane Lane approaches Waikiki Beach on Thursday, August 23, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 23: 2018 Ugg had the largest amount of sand bags to protect their Kalakaua Avenue store from flooding as any of the other stores as Hurricane Lane approaches Waikiki Beach on Thursday, August 23, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 23: 2018 The Royal Hawaiian Center closes early on Thursday as a precaution are to keep people and property safe as Hurricane Lane approaches Waikiki Beach on Thursday, August 23, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
Michael and Paris Mendina, visiting from Sacramento, take a photo of the store closure sign due to Hurricane Lane, as a momento from their visit to Oahu Thursday, August 23, 2018. - Hurricane Lane was downgraded to a Category 3 Thursday August 23, but the storm's slow motion threatened Hawaii with days of rain. Parts of the Big Island were soaked with more than a foot of rain Thursday. (Photo by Ronen ZILBERMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONEN ZILBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 23: 2018 The threat of Hurricane Lane does not deter New York visitors, Valerie Wahl, left, and her sons Leo Wahl, 7, and Ian Wahl, 9, or Mike Baker from Arizona from watching the waves crash against the rocks after sunset as Hurricane Lane approaches Waikiki Beach on Thursday, August 23, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
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"Rain has been nonstop for the last half hour or so, and winds are just starting to pick up," said Pablo Akira Beimler, who lives on the coast in Honokaa on the Big Island. "Our usually quiet stream is raging right now."

Beimler, who posted videos of trees being blown sideways, said staying put is about the only choice he has. The road to Hilo was cut off due to landslides, he said.

"We essentially have one way in and out of our towns so sheltering in place is the priority," Beimler said in a Twitter message.

Roughly 200 miles (320 kilometers) away on Oahu, Elisabeth Brinson was still watching surfers from her balcony on the ninth floor of the Hawaiian Hilton Village in Waikiki, where she will ride out the storm.

"I don't think we're in too much trouble as far as flooding where we are now," said the native of the United Kingdom now living in Denver.

Hotel staff left a notice that the rooms will still have water and phone service, and a backup generator will power one elevator per building.

Brinson said many shops were closed, and those still open were frantic with people buying food, beer and water to take back to their rooms.

"We knew it was coming, so I tried to just cram as much as I could into the last few days in anticipation so we could cross things off of our list," said Brinson, who is accustomed to hurricanes after living in Florida. "You can't really do much about the weather."

Hawaii's biggest hotels are confident they can keep their guests safe as long as they stay inside, said Mufi Hannemann, CEO of Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association.

Members of his association, which include the state's major hotels, are shifting into high gear with their emergency management plans, he said.

"The only concern is those that venture outside of the properties, that would like to hike on a day like this or who would like to still go into the ocean and see what it's like to take a swim or surf in these kind of waters," Hannemann said.

Hotels are trying to warn travelers against that, he said.

Two campers were reported trapped overnight in Waipio Valley, along the Big Island's northern coast. The campers called authorities Wednesday, but emergency crews could not mount a rescue operation.

"We can't go in because the roads — there's a river of water down there," said Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe.

Shelters opened Wednesday on the Big Island and on Maui, Molokai and Lanai and were set to open Thursday in Oahu. Aid agencies were also working to help Hawaii's sizeable homeless population, many of whom live near beaches and streams that could flood.

Because there's not enough shelter space statewide, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Tom Travis urged people who were not in flood zones to stay home.

On the island of Lanai, it was eerily dead still and gray, said Nick Palumbo II, who owns Lanai Surf School and Safari.

"It's relatively like a regular day," he said by telephone. "I got friends calling me telling me there's surf at the beach, and they're actually going surfing right now."

Palumbo is prepared for the storm after boarding up one large window and stocking up on snack food. He's also got a freezer full of fish he's caught on dives and deer he's hunted to last his family through the storm.

"I don't have a generator, but I figure as things thaw out, if the electricity goes, we'll just get cooking," he said.

As Hurricane Lane moved closer to the islands, it was expected to weaken more rapidly and turn toward the west. But it was unknown exactly when that would happen, forecasters said.

The central Pacific gets fewer hurricanes than other regions, with about only four or five named storms a year. Hawaii rarely gets hit. The last major storm to hit was Iniki in 1992. Others have come close in recent years.

11 PHOTOS
The costliest hurricanes in US history
See Gallery
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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Unlike Florida or Texas, where residents can get in their cars and drive to safety, people in Hawaii are confined to the islands. They have to make sure they have enough supplies to outlast power outages and other potential emergencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency moved several barges packed with food, water, generators and other supplies into the region ahead of Hurricane Hector, which skirted past the islands more than a week ago, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said.

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Associated Press writers Mark Thiessen and Dan Joling in Anchorage, Alaska, Seth Borenstein in Washington and Annika Wolters in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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