Three tropical cyclones are lined up in the Pacific Ocean, and one, Hurricane Lane, may hit Hawaii in a few days. The other two, Typhoons Soulik and Cimaron, will crash into east Asia, directly affecting South Korea and Japan later this week.
All three storms contain winds of at least 74 mph, indicating hurricane strength (typhoons and hurricanes are the same kind of storm, but have different names depending on the section of ocean they traverse). Typhoons Soulik and Cimaron are on a collision course with the Asian continent, and effects from torrential rain, strong winds, and dangerous surf appear unavoidable.
Meanwhile, the forecast for Hurricane Lane is less certain but has become more ominous. While it could pass south of Hawaii, merely throwing back big waves on its south-facing beaches, it has become more likely that the storm will veer north and bring more serious effects from wind and rain over portions of the islands.
Lane is positioned about 600 miles from Hawaii’s Big Island in the Central Pacific. Its peak winds are 125 mph, down from their peak near 140 mph over the weekend. But it remains a powerful Category 3 hurricane.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center expects the storm to maintain this strength through Tuesday, before it may begin to very slowly weaken over cooler waters. Even so, when it nears Hawaii on Wednesday and Thursday, its peak winds may still be around 100 mph.
Earlier predictions had suggested Lane might remain south of Hawaii, but “[b]ased on the latest trends in the forecast, direct impacts on the islands appear to be increasingly likely,” the Hurricane Center said in its discussion Monday morning.
These direct impacts would include flooding rains, damaging winds, and large, hazardous waves.
Computer models are in two camps on the storm track. The American (GFS) model predicts the storm will make landfall on the Big Island Thursday night into Friday before getting pulled to the northwest over Maui late Friday. The European model, however, suggests Lane will remain south of the islands, possibly just grazing Kauai as it stays on more of a westward course through Saturday.
Even if the storm just misses to the south, monster waves, over 15 feet would likely batter south-facing shores of the islands.
Tropical storm or hurricane watches may be needed for portions of the islands later Monday or Monday night as effects from the storm could arrive on the Big Island as soon as Wednesday.
“All interests in the Hawaiian Islands, including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, should continue to closely monitor the progress of Lane this week,” the Hurricane Center said.
As Capital Weather Gang’s Angela Fritz reported when Hurricane Hector flirted with the islands two weeks ago, direct hurricane strikes on the islands are rare:
A hurricane hasn’t made landfall in Hawaii since 1992, when Iniki ravaged Kaua’i. That Category 4 hurricane generated an enormous storm surge that left water marks as high as 22 feet on the island, according to NOAA. The 145-mph wind stripped leaves and branches from trees. NOAA’s damage survey team found “few buildings” that avoided impact. Iniki is still the most destructive hurricane to hit Hawaii since the beginning of the 20th century.
Despite being in the riskiest location, the Big Island has not been struck by a hurricane since modern records have been kept. A hurricane in 1871 likely made landfall on Hawaii, north of Hilo. After that, only weaker systems — tropical depressions and storms — have hit the Big Island, although there have been several close calls.
Soulik, packing winds of 115 mph — equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane, is the most immediate threat to land areas, on a course to first strike Japan’s Amami Islands on Tuesday before likely riding up South Korea’s west coast Wednesday and Thursday.
The hardest-hit areas could see up to 10 to 15 inches of rain and destructive winds.
Soulik has a large “truck tire” eye, about 70 miles across, and is known as an annular tropical cyclone. Just 4 percent of hurricanes and typhoons are annular, and they are known for their staying power, weakening more slowly under unfavorable conditions compared with conventional storms.
While small deviations in the track forecast are possible, U.S. interests in South Korea could be directly impacted by the storm, including the Osan and Kunsan air bases according to the Stars and Stripes news site, which focuses on the U.S. military community.
On Thursday, Seoul may endure very heavy rain and strong winds from the storm, although it will steadily weaken as it gains latitude and passes over land.
Cimaron recently attained typhoon intensity and is forecast to strengthen over the warm waters about 400 miles north of Guam over the next one to two days. By Wednesday, its peak winds are expected to reach 100 miles per hour, equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane.
The track forecast suggests the storm will slam into Japan, just south of Kyoto, on Thursday. However, it is expected to weaken some as it accelerates to the northwest over cooler waters, but may still be at typhoon-strength at landfall.