Kilauea Lower East Rift Zone Eruption – May 2018
After enduring the panic and destruction of Kilauea’s eruption where lava covered more than 6,000 acres of land in lower Puna, including more than 700 homes and 1,600 acres of farms, coupled with constant ash explosions at the summit of Kilauea, the people of the Big Island of Hawaii breathed a welcome sigh of relief when the volcanic eruption paused on August 6, 2018. We were all unsure as to how long this pause might last and could only hope that this meant an end to a 3 month eruption that completely devastated and changed the lives of so many.
Hurricane Hector Threat
Just prior to the eruptive pause, on Saturday August 4 the National Hurricane Center issued an advisory on Hurricane Hector which was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane on a path to come very close to the Big Island of Hawaii’s Southern coast by Wednesday August 8th. Hurricane Hector was on a trajectory to impact Hawaii with maximum sustained winds of 111mph. It seems that collective sigh of relief by Big Island residents was short lived. While the eruption had entered it’s pause phase with lava still pouring into the ocean in lower Puna, Big Island residents scrambled to make hurricane preparations. Store shelfs were quickly emptied of essential supplies like water, flashlights, batteries and canned foods. Luckily residents were able to breathe another sigh of relief on Monday August 6th, as Hector began losing strength and was forecast to pass well South of the Big Island’s Southern shore. Some peripheral effects were felt in Naalehu and Ocean View in Ka‘u, but these effects were relatively minor.
Hurricane Lane on a dangerous path towards Hawaii
Hawaii residents relief was short lived, as hot on Hector’s tail a new threat emerged named Hurricane Lane. On Monday August 20th, the National Weather Service warned that Hawaii residents needed to brace for the impact of a dangerous category 4 hurricane named Lane carrying maximum sustained winds of 150mph. This slow moving storm could potentially bring life threatening heavy rains and flooding, high surf and high winds. As of Tuesday August 21, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center posted hurricane watches for the Eastern Hawaiian islands including the Big Island and Maui. Lane was on a direct path towards the Hawaiian Islands and the Big Island was first in line to receive impact of this dangerous storm. Hawaii officials urged Hawaii residents to prepare for the worst. The people of Hawaii have learned to take these storms very seriously and Lane was no different. Hawaii has been directly hit by hurricanes only three times since 1950, though the region has experienced 147 tropical cyclones over the same period. The last time a major hurricane hit Hawaii was category-4 Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Before that, the last major storm to hit the islands was Hurricane Iwa in 1982.
Dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Lane edges closer to Hawaii On Tuesday morning, Lane was positioned 450 miles south-southeast of Kona, tracking west at 12 mph. Although the Hurricane Center predicted it to begin slowly weakening over the next 24 hours due to increasing wind shear, this was not to be the case with Lane which attained an annular structure, meaning its large eye was surrounded by a single, uniform ring of thunderstorms. Just 4 percent of hurricanes and typhoons are annular, and they are known for their staying power, weakening more slowly under unfavorable conditions compared with conventional storms. This trend continued and the storm nudged slightly North, closer to the Hawaiian islands, disputing all forecasts that had previously predicted it weakening and making a turn to the West away from Hawaii. Hurricane Lane was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane and a Hurricane Warning was issued for Hawaii County along with a Hurricane Watch for Maui County on Wednesday August 23. Big Island residents braced themselves for the worst, closing schools, beaches, parks and businesses. Hurricane preparations were in full force around the Big Island and throughout the State.
Hurricane Lane slows causing heavy rains and flooding on the Big Island
Midnight Wednesday August 22 the storm slowed, bringing with it heavy rainfall primarily to East Hawaii that continued over the next four days. These torrential rains brought flooding, landslides, road closures and rescues of over 20 people stranded in flooded areas, resulting in the third highest storm total rainfall from a tropical cyclone in the United States since 1950.
As Lane slowed to a crawl veering even closer to the Hawaiian islands, Maui and Oahu counties issued Hurricane Warnings, but the biggest effects of this storm were felt on the East side of the Big Island with heavy rains also affecting the Puna and Ka‘u districts. Tensions rose as Lane edged closer, but thankfully on Friday 24th weakened to a Category 3 hurricane and was then further downgraded to tropical storm status on Saturday. The National Weather Service called off all warnings associated with the storm later Saturday.
Recovery from Lane
It has been a harrowing past week since the hurricane warnings began and this storm came so close to us here on the Big Island of Hawaii, with residual effects felt throughout the State. What an emotional year we have been through so far, ranging from destructive volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, hurricanes and storms. These events show us the unpredictability of Mother nature and just how precious and wild life truly is. The people of Hawaii remain strong and resilient as they have always been, and hopefully we can rest easy for a while.
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