The worst of Hurricane Lane's destructive winds are likely to bypass the Hawaiian Islands, but hurricane-force winds — 74 mph or better — are possible, and profoundly heavy rains are all but a certainty.
Lane was generating peak winds of 130 mph late Thursday morning, and hurricane warnings were in effect for the big island and Kauai, with peak winds due Thursday night and Friday.
Those winds speeds are going to drop off as Lane gets closer to the islands, but the Central Pacific Hurricane Center says rains of up to 30 inches are possible.
"The main story is going to be the floods," said Brian Tang, a hurricane expert at the University at Albany-SUNY. The islands are mountainous, he adds, and that gives a dangerous lift to the rising air air that produces rain a dangerous additional lift.
Meanwhile, as the peak season approaches, the residents of the U.S. coasts have yet to be tormented by potential hurricane-disaster scenarios in 2018. After a brisk start, the tropical-storm traffic has dropped off in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean and Gulf.
Why the contrast?
Lane is gaining strength and endurance from the warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific as an El Nino event evidently is ripening, said Tang.
And those warmer waters in the Pacific likely have something to do with the relative lull in the Atlantic, meteorologists say.
Abnormally warm sea-surface temperatures over vast expanses of the Pacific not only provide a fertile environment for Pacific hurricanes but they also generate strong winds from the west that can ambush incipient tropical storms in the Atlantic.
A combination of shearing winds, cooler water temperatures, and dry air have been suppressing tropical-storm activity in the Atlantic, said Tang.
Will it continue?
On Thursday the National Hurricane Center noted that a disturbance off the coast of West Africa had a 10 percent chance to grow into a named tropical storm — one with winds of at least 39 mph — by early next week.
And, "there's some signs in the long range that things are going to pick up," said Tang. "There's a large portion of the season left." On average, the season reaches a crest in September, and technically continues until Nov. 30.
But it is beyond unlikely that the 2018 season will rival that of 2018, the year of Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Harvey and Irma caused over $180 billion in U.S. damages, according to ICAT, the insurance-industry damage estimator.