Hurricane Lane Pummels Hawaii With Rain, Triggering Floods and Landslides

(Bloomberg) -- A weakening Hurricane Lane has brought record rainfall to Hawaii, where flooding threatens $8 billion of homes.

In 12 hours, 16.48 inches (42 centimeters) of rain fell on the Big Island of Hawaii, and daily records were set at Hilo International Airport Wednesday and Thursday, the National Weather Service said. Roads on the Big Island have been washed out.

“This is definitely a historic storm for the islands,” said Robert Bohlin, a weather service meteorologist in Honolulu. “People are saying they have never seen flooding like this before.”

While Lane, with top winds of 110 miles per hour, was forecast to be pushed west by another weather system, meteorologists still worry the storm could hit one of the Hawaiian Islands, raising the chances for catastrophic damage. There are more than 48,000 homes, valued at $8 billion, that are at risk of flood damage from the storm, according to CoreLogic, a disaster modeler in Irvine, California.

“It is really tricky,” Bohlin said. “If it gets too long in the tooth you could actually get a land-falling hurricane.”

Hurricane Lane Pummels Hawaii With Rain, Triggering Floods and Landslides

Current forecast models still say Lane’s center could get as close to 30-60 miles from the shore before it turns, said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. This would channel high winds through the state’s mountains, but the biggest threat would remain rain.

The system has weakened to a Category 2 and will probably fall to Category 1 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale by Saturday.

“The worst problem is going to be the heavy rainfall,” Kottlowski said. “In the higher terrain, there is going to be 1-to-3 feet of rain.”

Disaster Potential

On its current track, damage will probably be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.

“Lane has the potential to be a major disaster, and clearly folks should prepare for it, but I don’t think it will be one,” Watson said. “There will be some spot severe, dramatic flooding, but elsewhere I think it will mostly be a gusty, rainy day, with some scattered damage and power outages.”

Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., which supplies power to most of the state, reported more than 2,500 customers were without power on Oahu as of 8 a.m. New York time, according to the utility’s website.

Par Hawaii started shutdown procedures at its Kapolei oil refinery, the company said. Only essential employees needed to maintain the 94,000-barrels-a-day refinery will be stationed at the facility when the storm is closest.

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