While Hurricane Lane was downgraded to tropical storm status on Friday as it headed towards Hawaii, it still brought with it unprecedented rainfall that sunk parts of the islands in waist-deep water, forcing people to flee and causing structural damage to many homes in America’s Pacific paradise.
Just one year after Hurricane Harvey set the rainfall record for the entire United States, preliminary records from the National Weather Service (NWS) show tropical storm Lane dumped more rain on Hawaii than any other tropical cyclone on record for the island.
As of writing, Lane is recorded to have brought 52.02 inches of rain, or the equivalent of around 50 trillion gallons of water over a four-day period. The weather service also received an unverified report of 58.80 inches of rain from a private station and will validate the claim.
If the numbers hold, Tropical storm Lane will be second only to 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which inundated Texas a year ago with a maximum rainfall of 60.58 inches.
It will also move Hiki into the third-wettest tropical cyclone in the United States, which was considered the first official hurricane near the Hawaiian Islands. Hiki was recorded to have dumped 52.0 inches of rain almost 70 years ago.
Hawaii’s Big Island, the easternmost in the chain, was the hardest hit by Lane. Evacuations had to be made and water rescues were documented in Hilo, which received more than 31 inches of rain, and Keaau.
— Hawaii DOT (@DOTHawaii) August 24, 2018
Landslides and flooding also closed several roads in many parts, and power outages were also reported.
Some areas of the island were still reeling from the heavy rains that fell last April. During the April rain, several roads were covered by landslides and were only opened as recently as a month ago.
Because of this experience with torrential downpours, as well as lessons taken from Puerto Rico, many residents as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were able to prepare ahead of time and thus minimize casualties. Many residents were able to stock up on food, water and fuel ahead of the rains.
FEMA was also able to quickly deploy key personnel and supplies ahead of the downpour, having had a presence in the archipelago due to the April rains and the eruption of Kilauea volcano.
While Lane did not directly hit Hawaii and has already drifted west after the weekend, its effects are still being felt by residents of the islands long afterwards, and they are still expecting more to come during this year’s hurricane season.