Hurricane Lane has brought record rainfall to Hawaii, where flooding threatens $8 billion of homes and few can remember such torrential downpours.
In 12 hours, 16.48 inches (42 centimeters) of rain fell on the Big Island of Hawaii and daily records were set Wednesday and Thursday at Hilo International Airport, 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 120 mph, 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. More than 48,000 homes valued at $8 billion are at risk for flood damage, 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."
Current forecast models still say Lane's center could get as close to 30 to to 60 miles from the shore before it turns, said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College, Pennsylvania. This would channel high winds through the state's mountains, but the biggest threat would remain rain.
The system, a Category 3 major hurricane, will weaken throughout the day and fall to a Category 1 storm 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 one to three feet of rain."
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, which supplies power to most of the state, reported more than 2,500 customers were without power on Oahu as of 8 a.m. EDT, according to the utility's website.
Par Hawaii started shut-down 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.
--With assistance from Bloomberg's Adrian Leung, Christopher Martin and Sheela Tobben.