Hurricane Lane has lost some of its punch as it prepares to brush past Hawaii but still threatens to inflict “tens of millions of dollars” in damages on the islands.
The storm weakened to Category 4 hurricane Wednesday — the second most powerful on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale — with winds of 155 miles (250 kilometers) per hour, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said in a statement at 8 a.m. local time. It’s expected to pass southwest of Hawaii on Thursday and Friday, sparing the islands a direct hit.
“It is not going to be a big insurance event — if it stays on track,” said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia. “It will be in the tens of millions of dollars depending on what tree falls on what expensive veranda.”
Hawaiian Airlines, American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., United Continental Holdings Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc. have issued travel waivers, allowing passengers who have booked trips through the region to change reservations without fees. Carriers are not expecting major disruptions as long as the storm doesn’t veer from it’s current track.
“Our flight schedule as it currently stands has us getting in before the storm,” said Drake Castaneda, a Delta spokesman. “Most of them are not on the ground very long.”
Delta and other airlines are monitoring the storm’s track, spokesmen said.
Hurricanes regularly graze Hawaii, but direct strikes are rare. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki hit the islands, killing at least seven and causing about $1.8 billion in damages, according to a National Weather Service report. While Lane is in the same area, it isn’t forecast to follow Iniki’s track.
The storm, about 445 miles southeast of Honolulu, has triggered a hurricane warning for the Big Island, Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe. It will get “dangerously close” to the state from Thursday to Saturday, dropping 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain, causing flash floods and landslides, the hurricane center said. The first strong winds should reach the Big Island by Thursday.
Lane is on track to collide with another weather system over the next two days that could drag it further west and weaken it with wind shear, Watson said. The storm’s gusts could weaken to 100 mph, or Category 2 strength, by Friday. It could be a tropical storm within 72 hours.
“It should really rip up the storm,” Watson said. “A lot is going to depend on that turn and the shear developing as forecast.”