THE US National Weather Service says Hurricane Lane has strengthened to become a Category 5 hurricane, which means that it is likely to cause catastrophic damage with winds 157km/h or above. The hurricane was about 800km southeast of Honolulu at 8.30pm local time Tuesday night (4.30pm Wednesday AEST).
US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to urge those in the hurricane’s line of fire to heed the advice of experts.
The weather service says that in a Category 5 hurricane, a high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed. Roofs and walls will collapse. The winds will knock down trees and power poles. The service has warned that power outages will last for weeks to possibly months and most of an area hit by the hurricane will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
The weather service has issued a hurricane warning for Hawaii’s Big Island; a hurricane watch has also been issued for Maui and other smaller islands, meaning tropical storm-force winds, excessive rain and large swells could occur. It’s possible Oahu and Kauai may later be included in warnings.
Hurricane Lane “is forecast to move dangerously close to the main Hawaiian Islands later this week, potentially bringing damaging winds and life-threatening flash flooding from heavy rainfall,” the weather service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center warned as it got closer to the state.
NOAA’s GOES-15 satellite captured major Cat 4 #Hurricane #Lane today as it moves west near #Hawaii. Winds have increased to near 155 mph with higher gusts. The path of the storm is expected to turn towards the Hawaiian Islands tomorrow. More imagery: https://t.co/P1F11zXUHI pic.twitter.com/xvO5gessDp
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) August 21, 2018
NOAA satellite capture of Hurricane Lane
Hawaii Governor David Ige is allowing non-essential state employees on the Big Island and Maui to go on administrative leave from Wednesday to Friday as the storm approaches.
The governor says employees on Hawaii and Maui islands who work in disaster response as well as in hospitals and prisons are required to report to their jobs.
Some Hawaii public schools will be closed until further notice.
The state Department of Education says Maui County and Big Island schools will be closed starting Wednesday. All after-school activities statewide are cancelled for the rest of the week.
The hurricane threat has forced residents to scramble to stock up on essential items such as water, toilet paper and ramen.
There’s some uncertainty about the storm’s path, and residents are bracing for the worst.
“It is much too early to confidently determine which, if any, of the main Hawaiian islands will be directly impacted by Lane,” the weather service said.
Workers at stores throughout the islands say they’re bracing for an afternoon rush of people getting supplies.
Some customers were buying cases of bottled water at Island Grocery Depot in Kahului, Maui, manager Brian Arakaki said. He planned to call in more workers to cope with an expected afternoon rush.
On the south side of the Big Island, workers at Mizuno Superette in Pahala also were bracing for a busy afternoon.
5pm: Powerful Hurricane #Lane continues moving closer to the Hawaiian Islands. A Hurricane Warning has been issued for the Big Island, a Hurricane Watch continues for Maui County. A Hurricane Watch has been issued for Honolulu County. Please monitor https://t.co/YJ5m2u0zl8 #hiwx pic.twitter.com/E7cvcBUJ2g
— NWSHonolulu (@NWSHonolulu) August 22, 2018
Hawaiian Airlines is waiving change fees for tickets to, from, within and through Hawaii from Tuesday through Sunday.
Even if the centre of Lane doesn’t make landfall, the islands could be walloped with rain and wind.
The east side of the Big Island has taken the brunt from previous storms and is still reeling after lava from an erupting volcano wiped out entire neighbourhoods. Early indications showed that the south end of the island up to the western side would be taking the brunt of the storm.
“People are getting ready, which is exactly what we want,” Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said.
He reminded people to have emergency kits ready and to “withdraw cash. Remember, if the power goes out, ATMs aren’t going to be working.”